An Idea For the 2012 FDIM Buildathon

Hi y’all,

I just received the following Email from Wayne, N6KR, at Elecraft. FDIM stands for “Four Days In May”, a sort of convention within the Dayton Hamvention, sponsored by QRP International. The Buildathon is an event where a bunch of people get together and build a kit from a bunch of parts. What Wayne suggests here is very exciting. Speaking as a long-time blind ham, I for one would be very excited to be able to build something and take part in an aspect of the hobby that I have to this point not been able to enjoy.

I can already see some objections by some blind hams to some of the stipulations Wayne has listed. I would be interested, personally, in your thoughts on this. I, for one, am totally in.

Here’s Wayne’s Email, which I was copied on:

Hi Ken,

Hope things are going well for you this year. I’m really busy with the KX3 and other products, as you can imagine.

We have a number of blind customers using K3s, etc. I was discussing with one of them (Buddy, copied on this) the fact that there are no radio or electronic kits (that we know of) that could be constructed entirely by a blind hobbyist. I then mentioned that I’d think about how to do this 🙂

Then I realized this would be a novel theme for the FDIM building contest in 2012, assuming it hasn’t already been tried. It would be a challenge for both the kit designers and target builders. For best results, they’d need to work together.

The most important thing about such a kit is the sense of empowerment it would provide the blind builder. From all my conversations with blind hams, it’s clear they feel left out being unable to participate in some basic hands-on aspect of the hobby. I’m sure that’s true of would-be blind builders in other genres as well. (Buddy may have thoughts on this.)

Even a simple kit would be a challenge. Here are some potential constraints (again, Buddy will know better than I):

– probably no soldering (safety concern)
– suggest twisting component leads, or use spring terminals
– no high voltages
– all components that have the same size/shape must be carefully tagged or bagged
or have a tactile label
– all components with more than two leads (e.g., a transistor) must have
an asymmetrical package so leads can be clearly identified; better yet,
one lead can be extended beyond the others
– no use of color codes (obvious!)
– nothing sharper than a component lead
– hardware should be large (#4 or larger)
– if a PCB or other substrate is provided, it should be asymmetrical or have
tactile guides
– if knobs are used, they should have tactile pointers
– manual either in Braille or in accessible electronic format (use with a PC screen reader)

With care, one could build a simple transceiver that satisfies all of these constraints.

Anyone entering such a kit into the contest should pair up with a blind builder — or try building it blindfolded — to prove that it works.

Any interest in this idea?


Budcast #11: A Walk With Kapten Plus

In Budcast #11, join me and Leno on a walk with the Kapten Plus. I describe the unit (in my usual rambling fashion), and have Kapten Plus plan and follow a route. If you have other questions about the Kapten Plus, please feel free to get in touch by or on Twitter. You can also see the previous entry for my brief initial impressions of the Kapten Plus, and see this review from AFB’s Access World Magazine for more details and another impression. I also discuss things to consider when thinking about a standalone GPS like this versus off-the-shelf apps for a smart phone. (I use both, and I like both for different reasons.)

BTW, all the jingling? That’s Leno. He has a bell on his collar. Some may find such things annoying, but I kind of like it, it sounds cheerful to me, so it stays on. It sounds like a little sleigh bell, which is kind of what it looks like, and it rings with very little movement from Leno, so he’s pretty easy to track. While they might seem a little pricey at $25 per pair (I have an extra one, I only put one on him), these are high quality, sturdy bells, and the two bells you get are of different pitches, so you can pick the one you like better. Or if you have two dogs in the house, put one on each and you’ll be able to tell which of them has just raided the trash can. If you want them, you can find them on Noble Falconry.