Bio - Real World

My name is Sterling Coffey and I am 17 years old. In the world out of amateur radio,  I am a nice, funny and really smart guy. I have a passion for music and technology. At school, I involve myself in as many clubs and organizations as I can (sadly we don't have many) including STU-CO, scholar quiz, Speech and Debate, International Club, National Honors Society, among others. My GPA has never gone under like 3.5, and to me schoolwork including classwork, projects, tests and the like all seem very if I already knew about whatever they're teaching me.

I am a highly analytical person. When I see something interesting, I think about it deeply and from all sides of view. Its rather difficult to explain in detail...but simply put, I think hard. 

In school, I play snare in the marching band. Ever since my sophomore year, the band has sucked, often taking last place in every competition. This is because of extremely unmotivated freshmen. And because our main director left, leaving Giles to direct. He does a good job, but I think the freshmen believe that since he's a laid back type of guy, its cool to not do what he says. I hope next year won't be as terrible.

In concert band, we do much better for some reason. Last year we took Grand Champion in Atlanta in a big band competition. We also got to play in the Chick-fil-a Bowl so that was rad.

I also play golf in school. During freshman year, i didn't make the cut since I often shot over 60 per 9 holes-terrible. But i did in sophomore year after much practice, getting my scores down to the low 50's. Now i shoot anywhere from 35 to 45. As a team, we often do well in tournaments. Our captain, Taylor Dalton, often shoots five under par to save us from elimination. This year I'm probably going to be the lead JV player, since the weak links in the team often shoot above 50. Golfing's a fun, relaxing, and social sport...that is if you don't suck.

And for college, I plan on attending Missouri University of Science and Technology, mainly because they have a ham radio club on campus. I still don't know what to major in, but got it narrowed down to computer or atmospheric science, electrical, aeronautical, nuclear or civil engineering, and perhaps perform some form of military duty. I'd like the air force.

Bio - Amateur Radio World

I am an amateur radio operator, operating under the licensed callsign of N0SSC. To become an Amateur Radio operator, one must prove his knowledge of FCC rules and regulations, basic electronics components and theory, antennas and feedlines, and RF safety. To prove such knowledge the FCC allows prospective hams to take exams: the Technician, General, and Amateur Extra exams, respectively increasing in depth of knowledge and study.

I passed all three exams, giving me full operating privileges in the 10 HF amateur radio bands.

Now that we've passed the intro, here's what I like to do on the bands.

 My favorite activity in ham radio is listening and contesting. I usually listen to CW conversations (using a decoder to actually see) and Nets or rag chewers, and often shortwave broadcasts. I also talk on the radio...hi hi...usually on my clubs repeater or during contests or days of contest. I'm terrible at rag chewing because i can relate nothing of my life to rag chewers and therefore the rag cannot be chewed...

 My first contest was the ARRL CW Sweepstakes (even though i don't know CW...again). I used my computer to code and decode, and used my brain to fill in what DM780 couldn't. I now know how to send every letter and number at perhaps 20 wpm, but receiving is a different story.

I also like RDFing...when I’m bored I take out my handheld yagi and search for area repeaters and other things that radiate. I find it fun and successful when you locate the source, and i enjoy the looks i get from confused people watching me like my antenna is the transmitter to some sort of detonator.

DXing is quite difficult due to my mediocre setup.. It is however possible for me. During a quiet time on 80 meters, I went to DXSummit to find someone.  I found PA1RJ calling CQ and being loud into the US so I tuned to 3.745 MHz to find him. To my surprise, he was there, 20 over 9. There was also fortunately little pileup, so i threw my call in. First time grab. It was cool. However, afterwords I realized I was transmitting out of band. Hi. So far, I’ve worked the Netherlands, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, HI and AK, and have been in earshot of most of Europe.

Now that i've got a duplexer for my satellite antenna, I work the birds often. Its a cool feeling that your voice goes in and out of a satellite orbiting the earth miles above your head. What's even more amazing is talking to astronauts. That's unbelievable.

How I Came To Be a Radio Nerd
(From my QRZ Biography)

Back in the day, when I was around five years old, I got my first pair of walkie-talkies. They were fun until I got mad at them. I asked my Mom how it throws my voice some 500 feet away, and she said "magic." I cracked it open and colored on it, added a bit of dihydrogen oxide, and replaced the batteries with baby carrots, just to name a few methods of experimentation.

About 3 or 4 years later, I got FRS radios. I constantly experimented how far i can get them to transceive. I found the measurement of RF power is watts, so I thought light bulbs. A bigger bulb is brighter, so a bigger antenna is more efficient. But all I saw was the plastic duckie on top...I cut the top off and put a clothes hanger in it. I was now able to transmit about 3 miles, as opposed to 1.4 miles.

During the 12th summer of my life, I went to my grandparents for a week. I was looking for a football to play catch with, and in the cabinet where my grandpa stores his sports equipment, I saw a small CB radio. I asked him repeatedly, "can I have it, can I have it?" He finally allowed me to take it home. 

Back at home, I could now talk to one of my friends. He also had interest in radio, like me, except he was learning for this thing called Ham radio. Once he taught me the basics and the whys, he lent me his ARRL Now You're Talking amateur radio study book. I studied for about two years, when I went to the radio club I joined at age 16 to take my test. I passed it with one wrong answer, only because I circled the wrong letter.

After passing it, I waited and waited until my license came in. Finally, after two weeks, I got it, KD0BZE. Now that it was legal to use the VHF bands, I tried to teach my dad about antennas and feed lines and estimated radiated power, and eventually convinced him to spend about $600 on 15 feet of aluminum pipe, 80 feet of Buryflex coax, an Arrow beam, a roof mount tripod and 4 ground rods and an a 75 watt IC-V8000. It all went up on my garage roof, with the antenna about 40' above the ground.

For a while, the only thing i did was key up repeaters to see how far I can transmit. Surprisingly, I had a grasp on every repeater in an 80-mile radius, and often ones as far as 500 miles away. How well of a grasp was unknown, because of mic fright i wouldn't talk. I finally started talking during the nets on 147.240, my clubs frequency, and met a fellow young ham, Nicole, KD0BCX. She taught me not to fear the mic, even though sometimes she still does. In addition, I was getting mad at my call sign, KD0BZE. It was too long and the ZE was hard to say and copy by many (even though I used zed e). I got it changed to N0SSC, much more intelligible and personalized...also quite short on CW.

During our clubs Field day ops, Nicole and I got to get our feet wet in HF and work in the SSB trailer under the call sign WA0FYA. It was AWESOME! I found my niche, tuning quickly and pouncing on every station I heard or calling CQ and making a QSO a second. Nicole, the logger, was astonished yet frightened at my craze and found her fingers to be slower than the speed at which I made contacts. It was much fun for the both of us.

Having a short call sign and contest experience, I was very eager for solo HF at this time. After I passed the Tech test, I began studying for the General license. Having finished it, I felt ready for the test. I went to Granite City's Egyptianfest ham fest, over 70 miles away. I took time to look at all the junk and other stuff being sold in the swap meet. At 10 am, I went to take the test. The questions were easy.There wasn't many calculations, and I knew nearly all of the questions well. For the three I didn't know, I put a little dash next to the number to see if I really did get those wrong. When I finished, I got up and turned it in. Two of the VECs began grading it, one saying my answers in phonetics, the other checking it in the answer book. "One, bravo. Wrong." First, I was shocked that was wrong. Second, they were saying it aloud. Oh well I guess, I only missed three.

I was wrong. After they were done grading, I had missed 20. I was infuriated, because it was obviously a grading error--there is no way I missed the really easy ones. They checked it about 8 times over, but ended up getting my missed number down to 18. Even more proof of grading error!

A month later, I took the test at our ZeroBeaters hamfest and MISSED NOT A ONE! I was so happy that I took the AmEx test for free. I got mad again, because I MISSED PASSING BY ONE! GRADER ERROR! Actually, I wasn't as mad because I now have HF privileges.

Now I had to persuade my parents to get me an HF rig. To me, finding the right HF transceiver was like trying to look for a college. So many benefits, disadvantages, buttons, knobs, dsps, ATUs, band scopes...on and on and on. After voluntarily writing my parents a 10-page report on the various antenna and radio combinations that I wanted, they finally gave in. I had to narrow it down to one antenna and one radio. I finally chose an IC-746 I saw on eBay, and the True-Talk G5RV antenna, from its rave eHam reviews and unbeatable price.

Setting up all the equipment went quick. I used a slingshot to shoot fishing wire over the highest parts of the post oaks, and tied that to 1/8" dacron rope to hoist the G5RV. The ends are anchored into eye hooks in the host trees, with the antenna at a max height of 50' or so. Inside, I bought a 25A power supply from radioshack and some grounding equipment...In a matter of 5 minutes I had the radio connected to the computer, antenna and everything to ground. 

I had many doubts in the effectiveness of my antenna system. But the November sweepstakes quickly eroded those doubts. 

Obviously, the final step in amateur radio licensing is passing the Amateur Extra Exam. I declared I was done reading the AMEX License manual once I got to chapter 8. At this point I think I got encephalitis from all the information overload. The one thing I couldn't remember was the math. Polar coordinates, complex impedance, capacitive reactance, half-power on and so forth. I began to write equations in a yellow notepad...but I kinda went overboard. When I was finished writing notes, i filled the entire 50 page notepad with everything from class A amplifiers to Zener diodes...and with well drawn schematics too! So being done with all that, i took some practice tests, with scores ranging from 80-100%...pretty good. So today on February 8, I went to an class/exam session in Bridgeton, MO hosted by the St. Louis and Surburan Radio Club. It was a two day thing, where they had classes for the tech and general classes. I went on the second day and hung out with the techies and met the club members until the time has came to take the tests.

The time has come to take the tests.

The bright pink test they handed me was of intermediate difficulty. There were some questions on which I had no clue about, some math, and finally some simple, common sense questions. Every question i was unsure about, i put a little tick next to the number. After filling in all 50 answers, i counted about 18 unsures, worst case, and about 10 best case. I went back and checked all the answers and found I made some idiotic mistakes, thereby decreasing my worst case incorrect answers to 14. A sure pass, by my own critiquing.

And it was! I could see all the faces of jealousy in the fledgling middle to old age piggies who know they just got beaten by a 17 year old. But now I could go home and the DX for Thursday when Desecheo island is on the air...

Did it.

© 2010 NØSSC