Wednesday, October 22, 2008

MEP at MUD 2008 - future conferences and meetings?

MEP’s first presentation at a major ham radio gathering was a success.

Microwave Update 2008 was held in Bloomington MN, on October 17-18. Nearly 90 people attended the two days of presentations. There was plenty of time for socializing and conversing, which we managed to take full advantage of. James French, W8ISS, was extremely helpful in encouraging our attendance, supporting the table, and in introducing us around.

We ended up with a few answers and a better idea of the questions, with the most progress made in the areas of feeds, use cases, and in learning more about the state of other amateur microwave projects.

Our updated conceptual block diagram, a copy of the TAPR open hardware license, the MEP newsletter, and two posters were at the vendor table, along with some project information cards and at least some of the time, real live people! Thank you to Paul Williamson, KB5MU, for helping to represent and explain the project at the conference.

My impressions as a first-time conference attendee were quite positive, and I would like to target Microwave Update 2009, in Dallas (tentatively scheduled for 24-25 October) as a place where we can report progress and get quality feedback.

The reason I’m suggesting having a formal presentation at Microwave Update as a project goal is that I believe there are big advantages to having a regular deadline where progress is summarized and presented. It helps to spread the word about the project. It’s very enjoyable to share progress and lessons learned with others, especially if it happens to be a supportive and encouraging environment. Microwave Update certainly seemed to be that sort of environment. Most importantly, it provides a wider opportunity for review.

Timothy Salo suggested that we might want to present at the AMSAT Space Symposium, as well. My initial reaction was negative, but after thinking about it some more I think his points are valid. The project, with its intentionally satellite-similar characteristics, isn’t completely outside the field of interest for AMSAT.

The Space Symposium seems to attract a different crowd. While there is some overlap and a few familiar faces, it was not the same crowd, and the constellation of concerns and interests are different enough to where it seems like it would not be an experiment in redundancy to target both.

The Space Symposium and the Microwave Update are usually held during October. The TAPR DCC, which is another conference with presentations and a proceeding, is usually held in September. DCC has been suggested as a good forum for us as well.

That’s a lot of conferences during a short period of time, but the process of preparing papers or presentations for the various proceedings provides plenty of opportunity for a “writing season” on the project, where various authors could take advantage of the schedule to brainstorm up a variety of documents on whatever facets of the project best fit the particular gathering or proceeding. I haven’t been to a Space Symposium or a TAPR DCC. If they are anything like Microwave Update, I will do all I can to support anyone wanting to write a paper relating to or inspired by the project.

A year is a long time to go without a big gathering. Opposite in the year from all of these conferences is the Dayton Hamvention. Having given a high-level overview in the AMSAT forum, and having staffed the technical booth for AMSAT, I have some amount of experience at this event, and it was worthwhile.

How about having a table at Dayton and planning meetings during the convention? How many people on the list are planning to already be at Dayton? With a critical mass, we could make a lot of progress at an event we’re already attending.
What does the list think about having, essentially, an informal MEP “track” at Dayton? If we get a table, it will be a comfortable space to sit and talk about all aspects of the project.

Has anyone else ever been involved in reserving a table at Dayton? The process for Microwave Update was extremely easy and free. I expect it would be a bit more complicated of a process for Dayton, but given the variety and assortment of groups, clubs, and companies represented at Dayton, it can’t be impossibly expensive or difficult to do.

Does anyone know if there an equivalent sort of space available at TAPR DCC or the Space Symposium, where a club or group like us can be represented?

More soon,
Michelle W5NYV

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