Last weekend, National Institutes of Health amateur radio station W3NIH went on the air to participate in the Maryland/DC QSO Party. The event ran on both Saturday and Sunday, plus a break in the middle. It’s been quite a while (as in, years) since the club has participated in a contest, and I had suggested that we try out this local, low pressure contest to gauge interest in this and other on-air activities.
While the club has a couple contesters, most of the members are more casual operators, and not all have experience in operating on HF. Nonetheless, a couple members made their first HF contacts during the event, and perhaps we enticed our one unlicensed guest to get her ticket.
We ended up working from about noon to 6 pm both days, with more phone than cw contacts. I don’t have the log in front of me, but I think we ended up with an estimated score above 20,000 or so. We were somewhat limited in cw because of the WAE contest the same weekend. 20m cw was bristling with European station. When we did go to cw, we tried not to pick bands accessible to EU, but even so, contesters there sniffed us out (yes Germany, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Russia, and Northern Island, I am looking at you). They were no doubt confused to get an exchange of “CLB MON” instead of “599 001”, but at least a couple knew about the QSOP and sent “STD DX”.
The NIH has a reasonably well-equipped station with an excellent antenna farm, mounted on the roof of one of the buildings on the main campus in Bethesda — a spiderbeam, a couple dipoles with broad coverage, a semi-functional GAP challenger vertical, but the radio room is not used frequently. As a contest station, it would take some work to optimize the room for efficient and comfortable operation. We’ll have to see after this event if any appetites have been whetted, and whether W3NIH will ride again in some other contest.