The Final Design of the “Universal Remote Antenna Tuner” (U.RAT)

I have the hacked N6HZ (Paul from Elecraft) C program ready to have the GPIO call added (as soon as I get that breakout board), and I also have to get the steppers working with the drivers, and will need a program that watches for an input pin to go high to trigger the steppers. I did find an Arduino sketch and complete wiring and dip switch settings:

There are code and wiring references for the Raspberry Pi, but looking at this Arduino sketch, all I have to do (to complete the prototype) is add a function that gets called with two parameters – which stepper to turn and which direction. Since the rotary encoder sends plus and minus numbers the direction is in the sign of the number – minus for CCW and plus for CW. I hope I don’t run into any rude surprises, and I don’t think I will – but I still have to get the KPOD to turn one and then the other stepper. The devil is always in the details, and I am very excited that I might have this working by tomorrow night (since the last parts that I need won’t be here until tomorrow). As I said before, the design and prototyping aspect of this project is one of the most fun learning “journeys” I have had – and my mind has been expanded so far beyond just chasing after DXCC entities (for 16 years) that it is the most welcome change in my hobby. To be fair – we are now at a place where the first “waves” of hackers have done so much work that I get to just jump in and skate. They did the hard work. Secondly – I didn’t just sit on my butt in the shack all those years – I had been a “Maker” – but an antenna maker, and now that I really have hit “Peak Antenna”, I very much needed this change. OK – back to the topic at hand . . .

I posted this before, but its so good, here is what I need to do once I get the breakout board and jumpers that have male to female connectors:

This fellow gives several very important tips that other tutorial videos don’t. Here is another one that has a really nice description of how Stepper Motors work:

The final “product” is a Universal Remote Antenna Tuner (U.RAT). It is meant to be used by anyone who wants to take a two knob antenna tuner and remote it at the antenna. Hackers can add a third control if they like – and the KPOD rocker switch easily supports three – but the BT1500A only has two, so that’s as far as I will take the project. Here are the benefits:

  • Take any old commodity analog tuner and remote it. Used antenna tuners can be had on the cheap
    • The tuner at the antenna might be more efficient than in the shack. I think for open wire balanced tuners this is a must
    • The KPOD used to tune the antenna tuner takes up far less space in the shack and is just too cool
  • The KPOD can be used to also control other things like a wireless remote antenna switch. Future versions might use the F buttons for memories. Some antenna tuners have switches, so the F buttons could be mapped to switch positions
  • The project will be Open Sourced
  • Elecraft gets to market the KPOD to the Maker Community as well as the Ham Community (if they wish). My all time favorite ham radio company is Elecraft – I’m a huge loyal fan for sure – and they have sponsored more DX-peditions than anyone. I hope I can help them sell KPOD’s!

The feature set of the first version will be very simple. The idea is that other contributors can extend and fork the code into other projects and ideas. I have no vision for fully automatic or WiFi – at least for now. This project firmly plants me as a Maker-Ham or a Ham-Maker?

I will add this finished project to my resume. My motivation was to learn and get a cool remoted antenna tuner and a great low band antenna out of this project, but the process I just went through aligns perfectly with my Data Architect role – and extends my capabilities into a Product Designer.

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