I am Sterling Coffey, NØSSC, an Extra-class some-code ham since 2007. I’m a jack of all trades in the amateur radio world, having done a little of everything from DXing, contesting, satellite operations…even working as an editor for the ARRL.
I’m currently working as an avionics integration engineer in St Louis, MO. I’m living my hobby, integrating, testing, troubleshooting and documenting aircraft radio systems. I live in a downtown apartment with my fiance, Jesten, and 2 kitties, Abby and Charlie.
Living in a downtown apartment, I don’t have much in the way of a station, but I keep a remote HF station at my parents home and at my alma mater, WØEEE.
I graduated from Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in December 2014, majoring in electrical engineering with emphasis in Electromagnetics. I served as an executive for the Missouri S&T WØEEE Amateur Radio Club for all 4.5 years. I also participated in Solar Car, satellite team, and Mars Rover Design Team in various capacities, mainly focusing on telemetry and communications as well as electronics design. I am a former ARRL Youth Editor and continue to serve young people to ensure the legacy of our hobby.
My favorite activity in ham radio is listening. I spend a lot of time on WebSDR or just scanning through with a radio. I rarely ever talk/ragchew, but I thoroughly enjoy contesting (Sweepstakes is my #1) and building/fixing things that use some sort of radio.
I run a YouTube channel. Lately I have been getting much more active, so take a watch!
Some of the groups I’m a part of are:
- FISTS (13905)
- NAQCC (3389)
- Missouri DX/Contest Club
- Alumni of Missouri S&T ARC (or this link)
- St Louis Suburban Radio Club (SLSRC, WØSRC)
- Boeing Employees Amateur Radio Society (BEARS, WØMA)
My Story (See it Here too)
Ever since I was 5 years old, radio communication has intrigued and interested me to the core. I would take toy walkie-talkies and force my friends to use them from across the room. One day I took off the antenna cover, stuck a wire clothes hanger in it, and talked almost a whole 2 miles! I upgraded to FRS, then CB, where I discovered long-haul communications nearing the solar minimum. I met a friend on the CB who ironically introduced me to amateur radio. I was hooked with RF.
I began studying at age 13 off and on, and at age 16 I aced the test and got the callsign KDØBZE. Now that it was legal to use the VHF bands, I tried to teach my dad about antennas and feed lines and estimated radiated power, and eventually convinced him to spend about $600 on 15 feet of aluminum pipe, 80 feet of Buryflex coax, an Arrow beam, a roof mount tripod and 4 ground rods and an a 75 watt IC-V8000. It all went up on my garage roof, with the antenna about 40′ above the ground. It was great.
I finally started talking during the nets on 147.240, my clubs frequency, and met a fellow young ham, Nicole, KD0BCX. She taught me not to fear the mic, even though sometimes she still does. In addition, I was getting mad at my call sign, KD0BZE. It was too long and the ZE was hard to say and copy by many (even though I used zed e). I got it changed to N0SSC, much more intelligible and personalized…also quite short on CW.
During our club’s Field day ops, Nicole and I got to get our feet wet in HF and work in the SSB trailer under the call sign WA0FYA. It was AWESOME! I found my niche, tuning quickly and pouncing on every station I heard or calling CQ and making a QSO a second. Nicole, the logger, was astonished yet frightened at my craze and found her fingers to be slower than the speed at which I made contacts. It was much fun for the both of us.
HF was amazing and I was ready to try it myself. I studied the General class for three months and aced that test. I attempted to take the Extra class test simultaneously but missed passing by ONE! Despite the fail, I now had HF privileges and had to persuade my dad to finance my new station.
Now I had to persuade my parents to get me an HF rig. To me, finding the right HF transceiver was like trying to look for a college. So many benefits, disadvantages, buttons, knobs, DSPs, ATUs, band scopes…on and on and on. After voluntarily writing my parents a 10-page report on the various antenna and radio combinations that I wanted, they finally gave in. I had to narrow it down to one antenna and one radio. I finally chose an IC-746 I saw on eBay, and the True-Talk G5RV antenna, from its rave eHam reviews and unbeatable price.
Setting up all the equipment went quick. Iused a slingshot to shoot fishing line over the highest parts of the post oaks,and tied that to 1/8″ Dacron rope tohoist the G5RV.The ends are anchored into eyehooks in the host trees, with the antenna at a max height of 50′ or so. Inside, I bought a 25A power supply from RadioShack and some grounding equipment…In a matter of 5 minutes I had the radio connected to the computer, antenna and everything to ground.
I tried transmitting and the power failed. I flipped the breaker. I experimented with my grounding system and discovered I made a big loop. I fixed it and the next week worked the November Sweepstakes. I was just one state and 3 provinces away from getting myself a broom.
Now comes the ultimate achievement in amateur radio: Amateur Extra. I got the book and studied for three months again. The one thing I couldn’t remember was the math. Polar coordinates, complex impedance, capacitive reactance, half-power bandwidth…so on and so forth. I began to write equations in a yellow notepad…but I rather went overboard. When I was finished writing notes, i filled the entire 50-page notepad with everything from class A amplifiers to Zener diodes…and with well-drawn schematics too! So being done with all that, i took some practice tests, with scores ranging from 80-100%…pretty good. So today on February 8, I went to an exam session in Bridgeton, MO hosted by the St. Louis and Suburban Radio Club.
Over time, I worked many a contest and country. Soon I began looking for a college. I chose the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, Missouri (formerly University of Missouri at Rolla). Being exposed to Amateur Radio changed my mind from getting a psychology major to majoring in electrical engineering. The university also had an Amateur Radio club — WØEEE — and I will admit that one of my deciding factors for where I would go to school was whether there was an Amateur Radio club on campus.
Missouri S&T accepted me into their institution and I am now the vice president of the WØEEE Amateur Radio club. We are working on getting the club back on the air after almost disappearing completely. I became the new ARRL youth editor after snatching up the opportunity after Duncan’s resignation. I’ve always wanted to have such a position.
I continued to write articles until the ARRL experienced some staffing issues, when they had to cancel 3 web columns. This was unfortunate, and I hope they add more youth content in the future.
In late 2013 I was offered a co-op position at the Very Large Array. If you’ve never seen Contact (1997), or heard of the VLA, it’s the world’s largest radio astronomy interferometer…that is, a collection of 27 radiotelescopes (25 meter wide dishes) that have continuous coverage from 1 to 50 GHz, whose signals from each antenna are correlated to produce data and images as if it were a 13-mile wide telescope. I worked in the interference protection group, even in the remote lake bed of San Agustin, RFI is ever present and always giving the RFI group stuff to do.
After 8 months at the Very Large Array (see my VLA blog for what I performed) I came back to S&T to finish my last 1.5 years. I spent a year on a few RF-related projects including research and design on supercapacitor power supplies for underwater VLF sensor networks (Smartrocks) and other various assignments at the Hypoint EMC lab. My capability to devote time to personal interests diminished with the extra workload of junior and senior years, but I finally got out in December 2014. I had a job lined up before I even graduated.
I now work in Avionics and Communication Systems Integration in St. Louis, MO. Thanks to my ham radio experience (listed on my resume!), it was not hard to find a career. This is the reason why I promote ham radio so much – it’s an incredible way, if not the BEST way, to get hands-on experience in STEM careers.
73 De NØSSC!