The N3GO Radio Workshop Project 

(May 2001)



The Radio Workshop project, the biggest I've ever personally
attempted, has finally been completed, and I'm happy to convey that it was
an extraordinary success far surpassing my expectations. The effort
required, far exceeded my plan, but I was committed, motivated, and
energized by the support of teachers and the energy and spirit of the kids
who participated. The students, school staff, and myself, and even my
employer IBM, who so generously funded the project, all benefited from our
collective effort.

     It was intended to be a simple and leisure extra-curricular exercise!

Background & History

The workshop began as a National Engineers Week project with a
proposal to Clayton Middle School for involving a group of "At Risk"
students in a hands-on electronics prototyping exercise.  I designed a
simple Shortwave Regenerative Radio Receiver which can be built in 3 or 4
hours that would mimic the breadboard style developed by early radio
enthusiasts. Transistors were employed rather than tubes for cost,
simplicity, efficiency and safety.

Every effort was made to embrace the elements that motivated our
radio pioneers. Performance, simplicity, and low cost were the sought after
features. Paralleling their model, readily available hardware, was used
everywhere possible.  A regenerative receiver architecture was chosen for
it's simplicity, high performance and low parts count.


The circuit schematic was appropriately sized, and utilized as an
assembly guide. Circuit nodes were highlighted to illustrate component
connection points. Nails were used to secure and terminate the components
on a wooden base, aptly chosen to simulate true "breadboard" construction,
while avoiding the use of solder.

See attached files: 

Circuit Layout.JPG

Breadboard with Nails.JPG 

 Nails for Connections.JPG

SW Receiver BOM.123



A step-by-step assembly procedure was produced in Freelance to aid as
a classroom slideshow presentation. Each assembly step was highlighted, and
tests were devised at meaningful breakpoints to serve as periodic
opportunities to validate their progress. These test milestones also served
to keep the students motivated by revealing limited function, and
increasing levels of performance as they were nearing the end goal.

See attached files: 

Assembly Guide for R5.jpg

Assembly at Test 2.JPG

Project Scope and Target Student Participants

A project designed to reflect work skills needed in today's high
tech world was proposed to enlighten and motivate "At Risk" students, and
stimulate their desire for education.

Those who are college bound benefit from the support of Industry
during National Engineers Week. Those who march to a different drummer are
termed "At Risk", and often isolated from their more studious peers. Their
educational pursuits are channeled more toward life survival skills and
away from academics.

At risk students who participated in the radio workshop were selected
for 4 primary reasons:

   The workshop required a contiguous half day to complete, and their
   schedules accommodate this model.
   These students lack the support and discipline for college bound
   careers, but with suitable motivation, encouragement, and training, can
   develop the skills required of technicians.
    As a group, these students are often short-changed on educational
   opportunities. They are infrequently involved with the student body in
   activities that explore their constructive abilities, and natural
   These students are challenging, but inadequately challenged.

Into Action!

After weeks of preparation, design prototyping, last minute
performance enhancements, counting and sorting of components, fabricating
custom assemblies, breadboards, and mounting brackets, pre-soldering wire
leads to jacks and controls, identifying and gathering tools, and
negotiating schedules; I was as ready as I was going to be.

Coordination of the Radio Workshop was through Mrs. Laura Pipkin of
Clayton Middle School NC. She and Ms. Pam Biggs were the two supporting
faculty. Two sessions were scheduled (April 5, and April 11) with 8 and 15
students respectively participating.

See attached files: 



The result was an unqualified success 

Both sessions spanned approximately 5 hours of the school day, with
all students reaching approximately 80 percent completion. A make-up date
was scheduled (May 14) to provide the students an opportunity to complete
their project. All but two accurately followed directions and were
successful without any significant setbacks. Those two had only minor
issues related to component labeling. These errors were easily detected and

 To guarantee a lasting impression, success isn't an option....

All students were successful..., 


.....and each were presented certificates of
achievement at the end-of-year awards assembly conducted for the entire
student body. The certificate, and their radio, were sent home with the
students to enable them to share their accomplishment with family and
friends. A short description of the project was provided to assist  the
students toward obtaining parental support and encouragement. It describes
the Radio Workshop project, and attempts to highlight the significance of
the student's achievement as well as the goal of stimulating their desire
to learn.

See attached files: 

radio workshop certificate.jpg

Shortwave Radio.JPG


Radio Workshop

Our view of the work of our peers is often clouded in ignorance.
For the pay received; teaching is truly a labor of love.

Personally Rewarding

This project was personally rewarding on many fronts. It enabled me to
exercise my engineering skills, share the passion of my radio
communications hobby, and create a fun and unique educational experience
simulating the workplace, for a group of students who have not been
inspired to value education. The effort was enlightening as well as
enriching, and allowed me to discover and experience a number of important
lessons as well. Some were subtle, and not surprising, while others were
quite revealing. Among them are:

   An activity performed casually in 1.5 hours, expanded to 3 hours to
   allow for coaching, is insufficient time for an audience of more than
   one. This is particularly true when there is only one coach.
   Practice/dry-run prototyping is essential. I would have failed miserably
   had I overlooked this. Missing tools, unordered supplies, and many
   errors in the instructions were all averted by testing the final plan.
   Budgeting lacks accuracy until all of the bugs are worked out of the
   process. I ran over budget by approximately 20 percent due to
   unanticipated extras such as safety glasses, batteries, and an allowance
   for spares to cover breakage and losses during assembly. Fewer students
   participated than projected, and this careless oversight wasn't a
   Attempting to develop, coordinate, and execute on a mission of this size
   without assistance can quickly become overwhelming. It could have run
   considerably smoother had I recruited the support of 3 or 4 support
   Relying on the school's staff for assistance is unreasonable. They too
   require training to become effective coaches, and their jobs extend far
   beyond classroom instruction.
   Activities of 3 or 4 hours duration require occasional and regular
   breaks. The students are conditioned to breaks every hour, and not
   running 5 or 6 hour marathons now common in the workplace.
   Coordinating activities that require more than 1 or 2 hours of the
   student's participation is complicated by their regular class schedule.
   Nor do all participating students share a common schedule.
   Coaching an activity that's new and foreign to the audience requires a
   great deal of one-on-one support. The level of effort is very near that
   required to perform each of the tasks independently on my own.
   Enthusiasm wanes quickly if signs of progress aren't evident. The "test"
   milestones were quite beneficial at rejuvenating interest, motivation,
   and focus.
   It's easier to control a classroom when the pace is fast. This is where
   support volunteers would most benefit the process.
   School teachers are grossly underpaid.
   My wife is a patient and tolerant if not understanding person.... a
   lesson I re-learn each time I embark on the path of following my dreams.

        Persistence and commitment can often lead to big rewards.

     It's often said that problems can be transformed into opportunities,
and the string of scheduling delays, though somewhat problematic, clearly
created opportunities:


Follow- on and benefits

   The Raleigh Amateur Radio Society held their annual hamfest at the NC
   State Fairgrounds on Sunday April 8, 2001. I entered the prototype of
   the receiver I designed in the "Home-brew" contest, and tailored the
   presentation toward it's application as an educational workshop for
   middle school students. I walked away with the first place cash award of
   $50.00.  There were several competing entries, and my entry won on it's
   merit toward promoting interest in "home-brewing" among our youth, and
   in our schools.
   The annual "Hamvention" in Dayton, Ohio was held the weekend of May
   18-20, 2001. This "COMDEX" of amateur radio, is attended by thousands of
   amateur radio enthusiasts and every major amateur radio manufacturer and
   supplier around the world. This led to another first place design
   contest win in the "School Projects" category, and International
   recognition for myself as well as for IBM as my sponsor. This exposure
   has generated much interest, and I've since been recruited by QRP ARCI,
   (Amateur Radio Club International) to document and contribute my design
   for distribution among schools, and scout troops worldwide under a
   proposed joint sponsorship of QRP ARCI and the ARRL (American Radio
   Relay League). The ARRL is the lobbying voice for amateur radio
   operators in the US on issues relating to license privileges, and
   frequency allocations coordinated by the FCC, and the ITU.
   Delays encountered in the resolution of student and teacher schedule
   conflicts slipped completion of the radio workshop to the end of the
   academic year. This became a fortuitous timing opportunity for the
   participating students. An annual awards assembly is held at the end of
   each school year to recognize special achievements by members of the
   student body. At Risk students rarely participate in these assemblies,
   but their successful completion of the Radio Workshop became an
   opportunity for special recognition of their accomplishment. I seized
   this opportunity by designing personalized Certificates of Achievement
   for each student. These Certificates were presented during this year's
   assembly by Mrs. Pipkin who coordinated the Workshop on behalf of
   Clayton Middle School.

Personal Appreciation

     Thank you IBM, and Clayton Middle School, NC , for supporting me on this
project. It was an "Engineering Refresher", and an experience I'm certain I
needed. Since I can now safely conclude that I didn't bite off more than I
could chew, I will admit I did over indulge a bit. On the other hand, I can
also proclaim (at least metaphorically).... "A Fat Camper is a Happy


Gary O'Neil 
IBM Microelectronics
Network Products Applications


If you are interested in the Radio Workshop Project, please email Gary at