The second CARS Amateur Radio Skills Workshop took place on the 17th of February 2014. Over 40 people gathered together at the Danbury Village Hall near Chelmsford for the second in the new series of Amateur Radio Skills Nights – This is a new initiative from the Chelmsford Amateur Radio Club intended to help local amateurs to meet, share knowledge and try something new. Rather than a "sit-and-listen" event, the Skills Workshops are hands-on sessions where people can get hands-on and ask questions on a one-to-one basis, which for many is the preferred way of learning something different.

At the first successful event in January, questionnaires were circulated to allow attendees to vote on future topics. Data Modes was the most requested topic, and so Data played a big part in the February session, with demos of PSK31 from Charlie M0PZT - the author of the free and easy-to-use PSK31 viewer EssexPSK. The weak signal data mode JT65 was demonstrated by Pete M0PSX, and the team was also joined by Chris M6EDF, who demonstrated how to receive signals from high altitude balloons, which sent their telemetry using RTTY.

The second most requested topic was “HF Antennas”, and CARS president Carl G3PEM was on hand to answer questions on this subject, with a common theme being advice on identifying the best type of HF antenna for use at home. Ideas were sketched on a whiteboard, supported by a collection of baluns, cables and connectors.

Also present at the event, Jim 2E0RMI with is popular live Echolink demonstration, David M0HBV with the RSGB Centenary PSK31 receiver, as well as a collection of other show-and-tell items including mobile HF antennas, a 2m Slim Jim, a home-made Morse key and a microphone built from bits salvaged at the recent Canvey Rally.

The session was very well attended, and it was great to see so many familiar faces, including recent CARS graduate Cathy Colless M0RTW, who travelled down from Cambridge. Cathy recently completed her Foundation, Intermediate and Full exams in just 57 days. For those unable to make the event, Pete M0PSX found time to have a couple of QSOs with amateurs in Kent, on the slot normally reserved for Pete's Essex Ham Monday Night Net.

As something of an experiment, a short quiz was put together to stimulate some discussion around licence conditions, band plans and callsigns. Those interested in answering the questions could scribble down their answers, making use of handy copies of band plans and licences. By popular request, an online version of the quiz is now available.

The quiz, and a selection of photos from the CARS February Skills Night can be found at http://www.essexham.co.uk/skills-feb14

The next event takes place on Monday the 17th of March 2014 at the Danbury Village Hall, near Chelmsford. The Skills Workshops are open to all, and there's no charge for attending. For details, and to sign up for email updates, go to www.hamskills.co.uk