April 15th 2023

We’ve been a little quiet here, and still working. This morning, several of our members met at the Lake County Makers Faire at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois. Enjoing the Makers Faire were Doug, Kelsi, Kyli and Gordie Mulley, Ken Daniel, Cary Willis, Janet and Calvin (Cal) Knowles and Michael Seedman.

We added a few members to our NIBBB group, and continue to meet and plan. Next up in our launch Queue are two of our younger Generals; Gordie Mulley KD9TVR and his sister Kelsi Mulley KE9LSI. Gordie is 12 years old, in the 6th grade, and until today was our youngest General. Kelsi is 16 years old and a Sophomore in High School. Gordie and Kelsi received their General license in August of 2022 and have have been waiting patiently for their launch date. Pictures of of the NIBBB members from September of 2022 are on our home page along with slide shows of the launch of Pico Balloon AA6DY and our solar panel build session at the bottom of the page https://nibbb.org/

Here at the Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade (NIBBB) we’re always looking at “What’s Next” What our next project will be, either an improvement in our Pico Balloon project or a new project.

The NIBBB members are all licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as Amateur Radio operators. These exams are conferred by Volunteer Examiners also known as VE’s. We now have our own exam team, the NIBBB exam team. The NIBBB is made up of 18 members, five of whom are volunteer examiners. We have two Lead Examiners, Doug Mulley KD9TPM, and Cary Willis KD9ITO, the rest of the NIBBB VE team are Jim Janiak KD9UQB, Ken Daniel K9YO and Michael Seedman AA6DY.

Our exams are conducted using the exam tools electronic testing program. Candidates take their exams on laptops or tablets that they provide. They get their results as soon as they click submit and three of our examiners will sign off on their exam. The results of the exam are uploaded to our national organization the ARRL the same day as the exam. There’s another step for newly licensed hams requiring an additional fee paid to the FCC.

Today we conducted our first examination for our youngest member Calvin (Cal) Knowles KD9WNU. Cal is 11 years old, a 6th grader at Central School in Glencoe, Illinois and a member of their Ham Club. Cal received his Technician license on February 11th 2023 and soon after joined the NIBBB along with his mom Janet. Janet KD9WVO received her Technician license on March 22nd 2023.

Today Cal upgraded his license to General and is now our youngest General, (he’s actually an Acting General until his callsign is updated on the FCC website which should happen Monday). I think Gordie is actually relieved that he no longer has the youngest General title. For those licensed hams around the world please visit Cal’s QRZ site at https://www.qrz.com/db/KD9WNU

Pictured below is Cal taking his exam. We don’t normally mention how well someone does on their exam, but we’re so proud of Cal having received a perfect score of 35 questions correct out of 35 questions. He took his time taking his exam and reviewed his exam before submitting, Well Done!

And the proud parents, mom, Janet Knowles KD9WVO and dad, Alex Knowles pictured below with Cal KD9WNU in the middle

The NIBBB is looking forward to more youth getting licensed in Amateur Radio. It’s easier than ever to learn with online programs like https://hamstudy.org/ Ham Study is the same organization that gives us our exam tools testing program. Janet informed me that she bought Cal an ARRL General textbook before his exam that he got through in 2 days. Cal used Ham Study to prepare for the exam and the ARRL Handbook for a better understanding of Amateur Radio.

We’re still checking the weather for our next launch. Here in the Chicago area we’ve been experiencing wild weather patterns. We’ll have a nice sunny day but very windy or rain and snow. Today it was in the 80’s, sunny and windy in the morning and rain in the afternoon, Monday we’re exepecting snow. For launch weather we look for sunny or partly sunny days, very mild winds at ground level and mild wind gusts.

We have had very succesful launches at 5 degrees below zero. We can launch in very cold or hot days as long as the winds are mild at ground level. Once the balloon reaches maximum altitude it will follow the speed and direction of the Jetstream or weather pattern at that altitude. The balloon can travel at 2 miles per hour or 200 miles per hour, visiting the world at a snails pace or around the world in 10 days, it’s pretty amazing following our balloons in flight. At the ground we look for mild winds, with less of a chance of the tracker package hitting a tree or bouncing on the ground.

Stay tuned for Gordie and Kelsi’s Pico Balloon launch

Congratulations to our NIBBB team, to Cal Knowles on passing his General license, his family and the Central School Ham Club for their support.

73, Cary KD9ITO