Application for an Experimental Radio License


Our son has shown interest in writing computer code. Not a bad thing for a nine-year old boy to do in the Internet age. Coding is the must-have job skill of the future, if you are to believe the prediction (which I do).

For Christmas, Santa Claus put a Raspberry Pi in our son’s stocking.

His first goal is to hack Minecraft. Mine is to introduce him to electronics.

A Raspberry Pi can do many things, including transmit radio signals.

In order to teach my son about electronics, and to encourage his interest in engineering, I’ve applied for an Experimental Radio License from the FCC.

The purpose of the license is to experiment with digital communication techniques under very low power conditions. The question my son and I plan to answer is how far can a signal propagate when a low power transmitter drives an inefficient antenna on the low frequency band.

You can read my entire proposal here.

In brief, we will build a Raspberry Pi transmitter that will broadcast two signals.

The first signal is a very slow form of Morse code. In this technique, a single “dit” can last between 3 and 120 seconds. This experiment will recreate a famous experiment by Lawrence Ginsberg in the mid-1960s.

The second signal is a data protocol specifically designed for long-distance communication using very low power called WSPR.

The Raspberry Pi will feed three types of antennas that we will build together.

Expectations

First, my son is only 9 years old. I don’t expect him to relish the nuances of this project.

Earlier this year, he built a crystal detector radio and was shocked to listen to a local radio station on a device he built by himself. I want him to gain a better understanding of how simple circuits can do amazing things. I also want him to strengthen his computer programming skills.

From the experiment’s size of the coin, I am quite interested in seeing how really low power (like 10 mW) can propagate with modern digital modes like WPSR-15.

The license term is two years. We can experiment with several antennas, the differences between night and day propagation, and other things a kid can grasp.

If coding is the must-have job skill of the future, I think it’s as important that you know how to apply that skill.