The March Feedback

Did you notice a Red Star on your label? If so, your dues may be due; get in touch with Pud/W3DQI to make good on things. Next month we will print an updated membership roster (always a popular feature).

Thanks to Roger/N3MIJ and Kevin/W3DAD for providing articles this month. Take note of the Cycle Across Maryland call for operators if you may be available. As many of you know, Roger has ridden this event several times, but this year will be riding across the USA instead. I prefer to call it riding across the continent, or how about riding from Pacific to Atlantic, or how about From Sea to Shining Sea.

Thanks to those who have commented on The Great Seal; especially the kind words that have been offered. Some have suggested that the date be eliminated, others wondered about the border. Also there may be a way to incorporate some other items. I expect to move forward with the whole thing soon enough for next month's Feedback. We still have to hammer out a few details.

Here's a brief look at the CALENDAR:

- 27 March: Regular meeting at the Woman's Club preceeded by Dinner at 6:30.

- 30&31 March: BARC Hamfest, Timonium Fairgrounds.

- 1 April: Special test session for the General Licensing Class, all welcome.

- 20 April: VE testing at the Woman's Club.

- 5 May: Montpelier Festival.

-11 May: Main Street Festival.

We have just learned that the Dick Howard Memorial Run previously scheduled for early April has been moved to sometime in September.

The latest idea here is to include in this issue the happenings of the LARC Board meeting. That will require a very quick turnaround, so look for it elsewhere in the Feedback and be forgiving of the likely rough edges.


President s ramblings

Our last two meetings ran over a little and we didn t accomplish a whole lot of club business, however, I for one had enjoyable evenings listing to Bob Bruninga/WA4APR discuss APRS and Rich Boyd/KE3Q tell us about the Potomac Valley Radio Club. Rich has been invited back to this meeting so that we can make our participation in the Potomac Valley Radio Club official by having a brief second meeting for this year.

Speaking of this upcoming meeting, note that it will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a dinner prepared and served by the Woman s Club members. There were about 15 hands that went up when I asked who would be there. This dinner is open to all of the members, regardless of whether you were able to help with the siding. I think they are planning for about 25 (the amount that usually shows up for the meetings), so if you are coming to the business meeting, come a little early for the dinner too! If you can t make the dinner we ll try to start the meeting about 7:30 as usual. The agenda for the evening will be a discussion of the question raised at the last meeting, namely, whether we should charge for our VE tests. As instructed, the board is meeting to discuss the question and will bring our findings to you at the meeting. If all goes according to plan, there will be a summary of our meeting elsewhere in this issue of the Feedback for background for the discussion.

As far as the upcoming events, the Dick Howard Memorial 10K Health Run that was scheduled for April 13 has been postponed until mid-September. May 5 will be the Montpelier Festival and Roger/N3MIJ is in contact with them. We ll be setting up our tent and have to decide if we want to also have an HF station up and running. Something new will be happening at the Main Street Festival in that the committee has donated to us a booth next to our information tent. The plan is to do a fund raiser. To that end Mike/WB3HUP is looking for some software so that we can digitize families and use them as screen savers. If anyone has any other ideas that we might consider, please let us know soon as time grows very short. I still hope that all of you will take on some part of at least one of our events so we can spread the work around.

We still need to find a home or homes for the club equipment that Dick/N3MJA is storing in his basement. In the past Pud has floated the idea of the club purchasing a table at a hamfest and having the members sell excess equipment with maybe 15% commission going to the club. That s an idea that could benefit both the membership and the club. I hope that some of you will volunteer to look over the equipment we have to see if it actually works or is just junk. It is also possible that some of the membership can use it. I m sure John/N3GXA our editor could find some space in the Feedback for a listing of stuff you want to sell. We ll talk more at the meeting.

73 de Jim/WI3N

The Laurel Club and Volunteer Examining

by N3GXA

In the minutes of the last meeting, which are published on page 2 of this issue, you will notice that a motion was passed to convene the LARC Board of Directors for the purpose of investigating the idea of assessing a fee for VEC exams. I have just returned from that meeting, (as an observer, I'm not a member of the Board), and I hope to explain some of the issues we are all faced with.

First of all, if you are interested in this issue, be sure to come to the meeting this Wednesday. (Come early for the free dinner provided by the Woman's Club). I can assure everyone that the subject of charging for exams was very honestly and openly discussed by the Board. It was ultimately decided to further the discussion at the upcoming meeting, as well as in coordination with the VE teams around the World that are supported by the Laurel VEC.

It became readily apparent to me that there is some need for information regarding the task of the VEC as opposed to the task of the VE. The Laurel VEC was organized in 1985 when the concept of Volunteer Examiners became authorized by the FCC.

When I first became interested in Amateur Radio in about 1973, license exams were generally given by the FCC at the FCC facility. We in this area were fortunate that the FCC has a field office nearby. It was necessary to go to the test station on the prescribed day to take your code test. Written tests other than Novice were given at the FCC test station. However, in those days, Novice written exams were normally given by a licensed ham who mailed the papers back to the FCC. This, in my mind, was the spirit of volunteer testing. Any older ham would be more than happy to give the novice test to someone. Now, as a cost saving to the Government agency, all exams are given by volunteers. This program has been an overwhelming success for the FCC and, I think, for the Amateur Community.

The Laurel Club took on a huge undertaking in 1984-85 to begin the VEC. They were the first VEC in the 3 call area, and, legend has it, the second VEC in the USA. It is fair to say that the Laurel ARC, led by Howard/K3IOG and others, were pioneers in the Volunteer testing program. The Laurel VEC is one of the 5 largest in the country. There are Laurel VE teams in Massachusetts, California, Washington, and I just found out tonight, even overseas.

The VEC differs from the VE in that the VEC is responsible for the organization of the VE teams who actually give the exams. That means that the VEC prepares the written exams and the tapes for morse code testing and distributes them to the various VE teams to use. The guys that give our exams on the third Saturday of the month are actually the Laurel VE team; they are not related to the Laurel VEC. Both groups incur expenses.

The FCC allows a VEC to charge for exams to cover expenses only. If the VEC elects to charge, all the VE teams are required to do so also. The VE may also charge some additional amount to cover their own expenses, but so far, none of them has expressed any desire to do so. The monies collected must only be used for actual expenses, no profit can be made. Of course, there are those whose "expenses" get a bit out of hand, but the FCC sets a limit each year. It is currently about $6.

For these reasons, the club will solicit input from the VE teams. Those that are nearby may attend a meeting, others may correspond by mail. The Laurel VE will be included in this (assuming they want to), and they can estimate the amount it costs for exams at this site. This will help the other VEs to determine their costs. The VE teams around the country may choose to leave the Laurel VEC if they feel that it would be wrong to charge for exams.

Recent rule changes by the FCC would make it easier to charge for exams. Up to this year, each VE was required to keep an exact log of expenses and report it to the VEC by a certain date each year. Any change by the Laurel VEC would likely go into effect beginning in 1997.