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Meet the Engineer
My acknowledgement goes to:
My father DeWitt, head of test & measurement at the Savannah River Plant (nukes),
Tesla Edison Galt Heinlein Asimov JGlenn, Mozart, McGyver, and a neighbor down the street who gave me most of the parts to build a crystal radio in 3rd grade
The aggregate effect of those entities, and some DNA-innate drive fed an attitude of “an engineer” mindset.
An engineer is not a degree, it is a educated mindset of problem-solving and calculating/trying to make things work better. A degree helps reduce the failure rate, but only if your imagination is not high enough.
On my dad’s knee he would tell me his job was to make stuff work better, last longer, and use less electricity…and yet on my dad’s same knee, he paddled the crap out of me for breaking my 4th birthday Fischer Price toy airplane into parts to show I was not satisfied: the “pilot-screwdriver” did not disassemble it small enough……..he also taught me to shoot straight with a .22 rifle at 4yrs; and then he & Mom got a divorce. But his influence continued with the letters he sent to me in Morse code over the years.
3rd Grade - I discovered that climbing trees to put up antenna wire was close to being able to fly! Fortunate was I that I never fell out of any tree or tower by accident.
Then, actually having the crystal radio work the first time, and hearing its music, it initialized something of wonder that the physical world was more than what you could see. Grandpa (a petroleum engineer) showed me in the Bible that God is the best engineer in the universe. Very close to getting the radio to work was when I took my Daisy BB gun and bedroll to class for show and tell. And the teacher let me stand in front of the class to sing a song afterward..
4th Grade - Mom remarried to an Air Force guy, so we moved from AL to FL. Dad sent me a Wham-0 electric motor kit and a “Ensign O-Toole Morse Code” flasher set. John Glenn flew around the world just north of us (we were in Homestead Fl). And I discovered reading books about heroes was a lot of fun. Not fun was getting in fights while walking home, but I did not shirk. The school PA played Sousa marches before the pledge of Allegiance every morning.
5th Grade - I discovered that I could connect the Morse code flashers together. I also finished reading the 2 foot wide book section on heroes and inventors in the school library. Step-dad gave me an aluminum slide rule, which I found would bend if you tried to.
6th-7th Grade - we moved to Omaha, the neighbors color TV showed the Wizard of Oz, the Beatles premiered on Ed Sullivan, I was the captain of an “Army Club,” joined Boy Scouts and aced the Morse Code requirement, dug up an alarm clock out of the dirt and got it working, improved my crystal radio, and replaced my bugle with the French Horn.
8th-Grade - we moved to Guam in July 1966. In August the Mars station advertised a “so you want to be a Ham” class in August. I was the annoying 13yr old who got bored with the straight key. My Novice WN4ENE arrived on my 14th birthday! The Air Force was bombing the snot out of Vietnam, because every morning the B52s were taking off. A B52 pilot I met in the ham class gave me 50 feet of the antenna wire used for the HF antenna on the B52s….copperweld inside some weird greenish plastic insulation. Using the ARRL license manual I made a 15 meter inverted V. I bought a Presentation Bug out of the Allied Catalog with lawnmower money, and Australian hams kept sending me "QSD" reports during contacts ;)
I upgraded to General 2 months later, so my call became WB4ENE, which shall remain my call until I SK. The AFMARS station OIC gave me the combination to the “parts warehouse” and said: “Ken, you can have anything you want, but there are 2 rules: you must actually USE the parts, and you can not sell anything you get from it. He also checked me out on the Collins S-Line MARS station, thereafter I took the shuttle bus frequently to operate KG6FAE.
9th-Grade: my French Horn playing improved, President Lyndon Johnson came to Guam to commission a NASA tracking station (our band played for him), I discovered a girl who liked ham radio, Horn, and ME, and I discovered that B+ meant you will explode the capacitors onto the ceiling if you don’t put in a 5U4 rectifier….. I took my radio station to the High School and the science teacher let me climb out on the ledge of the window to put up a dipole…then I demonstrated that Japanese can fill up your SX-111 receiver with replies when you call CQ! They filled up my mailbox with cards as well.
10th-Grade: Moved to Orlando.. Mostly marching Band French Horn, a small group of us started a Ham class
11th-Grade: I converted my “exploded transmitter” into a grid-clamp-tube modulator, I swapped out the 807 tube in the Adventurer with a 6146B and I worked SSB stations by carefully zero-beating them. Frequent reports of “you have weak audio” and cards from “observers” that my signal was chirpy…….
LIGHTNING: I was standing on the porch in Orlando Fl, looking at my 15 meter quad on a push up mast - WHAM! a lightning bolt hit the mast and sizzled down to the ground. That got my attention about lightning. No damage thanks to vacuum tubes, ground rod, and too much coax going to the radio. I also Evelyn-Wood Reading Dynamics read the Websters Dictionary in the bathroom, cover to cover, a couple of times.
12th-Grade: I upgraded to Advanced Class so I would not get any more tickets for being out of my band segment. A Rockwell aerospace engineer at Church built me a “dual J-K flip flop” CW keyer. The reed relay kept on sticking because cathode-keying was too much for it. My sister got mad at me and hid it forever. So, who else had a solid state keyer built in ~1969?
I graduated HS with only "Algebra 1" for math. They let you slide if you had 3 years of a foreign language…which was German for me, thanks to my Army Club and TV show “Combat!”
1970 College: I got a full scholarship to Rollins College, Winter Park FL for Orchestral Performance on the French Horn. Freshman year I put a bamboo rotatable dipole on the roof of the 4th story, and worked 10 meters AM using the same weak audio radio setup. DX was incredible in 1971!
1972-3: I became too busy playing Horn professionally (Disney World/Florida Sunshine Pops), frequently missing college-required concerts as part of my music scholarship. Radio was rcv only. My draft number was 10 and the old salts said I should join the military and play the French Horn.
1973: I joined the Army after completing Junior Year. I played the highest ever scoring French Horn audition score for the Navy School of Music, and began teaching Horn to Army, Navy, and Marines. Radio became an obsession on the side. For 6 months of my “GI Bill” I got the TV Course from Bell&Howell. I stayed up 72 hours without sleeping and built the GR2000 color TV and got it working. During this time as a Hornist I realized that “blowing your own Horn” is possible, and you can still be humble. Just back it up with results. I never missed notes.
1975-81: Moved to Germany to be the Principal Horn in the Army Band Europe, got my amateur call, DA1FM and joined Army MARS as AEM1FM. DARPA installed a new NVIS antenna at the Gateway station in Heidelberg, which was upstairs above the band rehearsal hall.
I started having guilt-nightmares about not finishing college. Upgraded to Extra Class, got the 2nd Class Commercial FCC license, and homebrewed a 8877 amplifier. I discovered that RFI could be fixed by stripping cores out of discarded German TV set flyback transformers. So I wrote an RFI article in the Heidelberg Post about interference in 1980. I used a Kenwood HT while in the “customer’s house” to key my HF rig VOX in the apartment. Hearing the interference, winding the speaker/AC around ferrites, key up repeat, until the problem was solved. 32 out of 33 complainants were fixed. One Colonel would not let SSG Crawley in his house.
I stated taking algebra and other classes to stop the nightmares.
Okay okay, this is becoming a future novel…. .so 10 years of service, I got out of the Army and started EE at Old Dominion in Norfolk VA.
1987 When I was hired as an engineer at NAVELEX I began a career of “how to get out of the cubicle” to get my hands dirty solving problems.
When the gov began using “frequency-hopping” radios I became the shipboard RF Engineer for Navy/Marine SINCGARS and for Navy UHF HAVEQUICK. SINCGARS is VHF 30-88 and HaveQuick is 225-400 MHz. The biggest problem was the antenna had to work without returning and dynamic band-pass filtering. During this time I lost my love affair with 1:1 SWR and using tuners. I began to appreciate that physics and Mother Nature will give you a tolerable match for the radio if you are willing to pay Her tax with amplification: a linear for Transmit, and preamp for Receive. (this was the beginning of why I love the T3FD)
Before Desert Storm I joined Navy MARS (NNN0KSP), and got elevated to “afloat phone patch station” status. Negotiating phone patch frequencies out of the Ham bands with a slightly modified TH6, fed with 7/8” hardline was a challenge. I wore out a Heathkit roller inductor and arced over many capacitors.
1990 When Desert Storm hit, I realized that quick QSY and transmit was a lot more valuable than slowly retuning AND losing contact with the ship or the Marines “on the sand.” So I designed a decoder using window comparitors to detect the bandswitch voltage coming out of my IC-751A. The comparitor array drove FET saturated switches to ground out the 10 solenoids of an array of vacuum relays. I had 4 antenna tuners “preset” to 4 phone patch frequencies, and thus my 8877 would be matched instantly. I designed and built the system in 3 days.
Lightning: my 1969 experience was repeated TWICE within 6 months time during Desert Storm. And both times, I witnessed the lightning bolt hitting my 48ft tower. The first strike I was actually transmitting Amtor Mars traffic, the second time the station was on, and a LED in the kitchen answering machine melted. Otherwise, the only damage done was to hockey-puck sized MOVs I installed in the power panel.
This direct experience is why I kind of laugh when folks say they “ground their antennas” when a storm approaches. Three times in my life the bolt came out of the blue. How would I anticipate this? As an engineer I anticipated by design, not luck. Hint: the 7/8” heliax was routed straight down the tower, and was grounded a few inches “below grade”, then about a 10 foot diameter loop was made that brought the cables back into the attic and ran to the room over the garage to a rack panel that had the vacuum relays and Polyphaser Coax suppressors. A 1” copper water line went thru the floor to the underground oil tank for that ground. If you want to know a lot more about practical solutions to lightning for the Navy and my shacks, ask me….
Fast-forward to 2013:
4 antenna patents and numerous awards for solving problems which others did not want to risk trying, I retired early. I moved to N.Idaho where nobody is around to care about how big the antennas are.
2017: I rejoined AMARS (my 4th MARs callsign) and within a month I realized that HF ALE (which I had classified experience with in DoN) presents a communications systems engineering problem over the long term when the design relies on automatic antenna tuners. MARS McGinnis mentioned the Robinson-Barnes dipole...voila` I pulled out of the box an unopened Bushcomm BBA-100 that Jay Terleski of Array Solutions had provided me in 2008 to evaluate, and I proceeded to smoke the thing after about 2 months. A refusal email from the vendor(s) to sell me a replacement resistor load and balun challenged me, as I design things to be repairable. So I reactivated my NEC/4 software and proceeded to design my own T3FD and become familiar with the sparsely documented attributes of this traveling wave magnetic loop antenna. I intended to present my information to the ARRL antenna contest in June of 2017, but I was no where close to writing meaningful and duplicatable information.
I realized the T3FD, Terminated 3-wire Folded Dipole, is a high performance antenna that is not suited for the typical Ham. Why? (queue up my 4 electrically small antenna patent ordeals) because the mentality of “getting a perfect match” so the antenna will become "perfect" pervades. Mother Nature throws 200dB QSB fading on us over time, so why do we obsess over 1 to 5dB conversion loss by making a non-resonant antenna?
On the receive side: noise immunity due to it being a magnetic loop antenna drops the noise floor, which exposes all those stations under the S8 noise of my 266ft off-center dipole....
On the transmit side, you can easily recover lost power with a linear, but all the vendors do not make it economically feasible for a Ham to put up a half-wave at 160 meters that will take 2.5kW AM. That design became my objective, which I achieved.
Then, to make a lower cost version challenge was presented by Region 1 Army MARS, which I worked on with models and prototypes.
Constructing a T3FD antenna is more than tedious, especially collecting the parts. So Mike of DipolesUSA.com (a Region 1 MARS member) has worked with me to take that drudgery and expense out of the equation to make kits. There are compromises but you won't know it unless a hurricane hits or you go dual 8877 power levels ;)
There are some very interesting findings about the T3FD which after 2 years and 2,000+ hours modeling & prototyping that I am hesitant to put out there in the public just yet, being that I’m retired and I don't like to BS.
So I have begun a business that leverages my broad experience problem-solving, backed up with a couple of Navy funded "electrically small antenna patents” experiences, and so forth. Here is one tidbit that is not yet curve-fit to reality: for every foot of added length to the T3FD-nnn antenna, you gain about 15kHz of lower frequency efficiency! So, I can custom make an antenna to fit on the roof of the building to maximize performance, and make it so you do not need a tuner, which has undocumented losses no one wants to talk about. Region Ten Custom Antennas was born.
Thank-you God for giving me an innate distaste for accepting things as they appear to be, but providing me with the drive to take the problem apart and make it into something a little bit better.
“Engineering is the art of modelling materials we do not wholly understand, into shapes we cannot precisely analyse so as to withstand forces we cannot properly assess, in such a way that the public has no reason to suspect the extent of our ignorance.”
Dr AR Dykes
“Engineering problems are under-defined, there are many solutions, good, bad and indifferent. The art is to arrive at a good solution. This is a creative activity, involving imagination, intuition and deliberate choice.”
"RF engineering has colors that are the electromagnetic spectrum, each behaves differently. Often a textbook solution, or a product brochure solution, will fail because there are complications that lie outside of the problem statement,”
RF engineering is an "art form” ..… education, experience, motivation and humility. Lack any one of these elements and you will fail”
Ken Crawley https://www.doncio.navy.mil/CHIPS/ArticleDetails.aspx?ID=2791
Ken Crawley (SK)
RF Engineer, French Hornist, Farmer, begun homestead year #7
Region Ten Custom Antennas (R10CA)
Cataldo Idaho 83810
KEN'S DAD E.D. CRAWLEY ENGINEER
1990 DESERT STORM
2017 LAUNDRY ROOM WHILE XYL WAS AWAY FOR A FEW MONTHS
2003 - BALAD AIRBASE IRAQ
2003 - IED BLEW UP BEHIND MY SUV
Copper loading coil I built for the "Frequency Agile Tactical AM Broadcast Antenna" patent: US8350769 it works on 630 meters....
Copper trampoline prototype "Compact Antenna Assembly" in my backyard for patent: US7084835
Frequency Agile Tactical AM Broadcast Antenna - 16 each 99' top hat wires with interrupters so a tuning solution is always a split inductor to ground
Ken Crawley and the "balun pole" approach to feeding T3FD antennas.
Kathryn Crawley my XYL and HER IDEA how to suspend the middle of the T3FD-266. Simple & elegant! prototype load resistor #3 under the middle insulator
NEC/4 wire-frame model. 64ea 150 ground radials and 8ea 200 ft ground radials...It takes me 4 hours to fully deploy this antenna SOLO in the field.
Snow covered mountain backdrop for the T3FD-266
Constructing a MilSpec T3FD-65 for Ben AAR6ER
T3FD-007 - my first prototype #1 to test the NEC/4 simulations. I had it hanging in the living room while XYL-Kat was away. It covers 630-6 meters
Somebody needs to test this with WSPR!