CW Academy In-Class Activities

CWA Basic:

Session 1 sending in class: Describe (in CW) two of your ham radio-related goals for 2021.  (For example: “Work Zambia”)

Session 2 sending in class: Pick two cities or towns in or something fun about Scotland to send.   [Scottish Classmate] will tell us how to pronounce them correctly. 

Session 3 sending in class: Pick two menu items for your CW Academy virtual take-out dinner order.  I initially suggested Chinese (since that’s what Ross mentioned he’d ordered), but let’s extend that to also include Filipino and Thai, because I was looking at those menus and am now hungry. (I did not include Vietnamese because of the extended character set – the cuisine is excellent.)

Session 4 sending in class: Compose an amateur radio-related haiku, a three-line poem where the lines are 5, 7, and 5 syllables, respectively. Two examples are below. As you practice at home, think of where it would be appropriate to add additional spacing to compensate for the lack of context clues.

No propagation
Until someone calls CQ
Then the bands open

The new antenna
is only temporary
honey.  I promise!

Session 5 sending in class: Pick a couple of short facts that you find interesting and would send in CW.  Try to be concise, though we may elaborate after if there’s interest.   For example, “supernovas produce iron” (heavier elements are believed to be created by neutron star collisions)   

Session 6 sending in class: Tell the class your favorite, celebratory dish and the occasion (year, month, etc.) that you celebrate.   

Session 7 sending in class: If you had won the Mega Millions (or, against all logic, got in on then out of GameStop) to purchase your penultimate (because there will be another) radio and antenna, what would those be? (e.g., Elecraft K4HDSteppIR Mark 4 — just enough to include a digit or two.)

Session 8 sending in class: What are your three most valued (to you) household appliances and/or power tools? (e.g., KitchenAid mixer, coffee grinder, and cordless drill)

Session 9 sending next class: In celebration of the arrival of 4-letter words, speed jumping to 8 (x 2) and being past the halfway point (2/4ths): What are four of your favorite (PG-14four-letter words?   

Session 10 sending in class: we’ll do pangrams, a sentence that uses all letters in the alphabet.  There are some examples here and in the attached file (from various sources on the Interwebs). A near-pangram (all but one or letters) is also acceptable.  For example, there was a geocaching puzzle whose keyword was revealed by the absence of a specific letter from each line:

How quickly daft zebras jump vexed giraffes.
Crazy Frederika bought very exquisite opaline jewels.
Sixty zippers were quickly plucked from the big woven jersey.
Jackdaws love my toy sphinx of black quartz.
The five boxing wizards judge men quickly.
Blue gods just flocked up to wanly quiz and vex him.
Pick my box with five dozen liquor jugs.

Session 11 Sending in class: When I was working on SST, I noticed a lot of the operators were trying to be nice by adding pleasantries and other CW Abbreviations, that could contribute additional anxiety if you were expecting something more akin to the exchange on the web site.   We earlier explored CW Abbreviations and Q-codes – three letter abbreviations beginning with Q.  Some of them are very useful shortcuts (e.g., TU for “thank you”), others seem odd (because I’ve only been a ham for 5 years) but common enough (e.g., QSL for “I am acknowledging receipt”), and then there are others.  Pick three, preparing to send the code, a concise definition, and whether you think it’s useful in the 2020s.  (It is possible someone may choose the same one as you; don’t say anything and send your own definition.)  For example: QOG means How many tapes have you to send? I do not think this one is useful. 

Session 12 Sending in class: Compose three sentences about your preparation for a session on the air.  These could be anything from printing a crisp stack of ICS 213 forms, the beverage you fetched from your gun room, selecting which hex-beam you want to use, checking the reverse beacon to see who’s active on CW, etc.  Since we’re doing a round-robin exercise, each sentence should be self-contained and concise.  (We’ll probably get two of them done, the third would be a reserved if we have extra time.)  

Session 13 sending in-class: Compose two “Dad Jokes” to send.  For example: “Two guys were caught with a stolen calendar.  They got six months each.”

Session 14 Sending in class: Go to Wikipedia here and choose one bullet from each of the “On this day” and “Did you know” blocks.  For example:

If you mess up a word, send eight dots, pause a letter, then resend that word.  (In other words, assume you’re on the air, sans Zoom.)  But also use your judgement.  If you intended to send a long word like “California” but instead sent “Californsa” – just continue, as there is enough context that the other person would be reasonably expected to “get it.”

Session 15 Sending in class: We’ll do an exercise where you’ll call a classmate on Zoom, ask a simple question, they’ll reply, then onto the next classmate.  Suggested subject areas: weather, HF rig, antenna, dinner, car, next vacation destination.  The added variety is listening for your call sign and sending a classmate’s.  If you are unable to copy, send a ? for resend.  An exchange might look like this:

W7PEZ de WT8P what is your rig?
My rig is icom ic7300

WS6Y de W7PEZ how big is hexbeam?
The hexbeam is 5280 feet.

KJ7IZT de WS6Y …

CWA Intermediate:

Session 1: Discuss, in CW, a significant weather event you’ve experienced.  (This relates to the first short story you’ll listen to for Session 1.)  For example:  Hurricane Alicia hit in 1983.  Every pine tree fell.  The house had a foot of water.

Session 2 sending in class: Send two ham radio-related goals that you have for this year.

Session 3: Compose a haiku. A haiku is a three-line poem where the lines are 5, 7, and 5 syllables, respectively. As you practice at home, think of where it would be appropriate to add additional spacing to compensate for the lack of context clues.

Welding class final
spider from 3/16 rod
Heat management rules

Tapping out Morse Code
I am calling to my friends
I hear a reply

Session 4: Compose three sentences (we’ll likely have time for two, the third is a spare) about how and why you got into ham radio. Bonus activity: Come up with a short list of subjects that you would cover on a ragchew with another ham.  (Next week the bonus homework will include having a ten-minute on-air or zoom QSOs.  Joe’s Thursday session can count.)

Session 5: Compose a couple of sentences on the most memorable QSO you’ve had on the air (any mode).  Like the other exercises, this is about being concise and considering it will be told over CW and may have some uncommon terms.

Bonus activity: make five on-air contacts.   In addition to SST, there are several CW contests/sprints: JIDX (Japan), SKCC (straight key century club), Yuri Gagarin International DX, NE/NM/GA/ND QSO parties

Session 6 In-class sending: Pick two menu items and specify their spiciness for your CW Academy virtual take-out dinner order. I initially suggested Chinese (since that’s what Ross mentioned he’d ordered), but let’s extend that to also include Vietnamese and Thai, because I was looking at those menus and am now hungry. 

Bonus homework: have two ten-minute rag chews (Joe’s Thursday session counts).

Session 7 Sending in class:  If you’ve participated in field day, bring two of: learning experience, funny story, advice, question, comment.  If you’ve not participated in one, ask a question or state what you think Field Day might be based on its description.  There are no wrong answers.

Bonus homework: make three contacts on-air or in zoom.  (In addition to SST, there’s the MI and ON qso parties.  (CQMM DX is running in Brazil, which may offer some gray-line possibilities or 10/15m during the day)

Session 8 sending in class: CW has a LOT of abbreviations.  Bring three and their definition.  (It’s okay if you repeat someone else’s.)

Bonus homework: CWT is CWops weekly contest that runs at 1300z (6a), 1900z (noon) and 0300z (8pm), much faster than SST.  Give a listen on-air or on a web SDR for ten minutes and try to pull down the exchange information for two stations running.  (The roster may be helpful)

Session 9 sending in-class: Send the titles of your three favorite movies.  (We’ll do rounds of one at a time)

Bonus homework: Have a 10-minute rag chew with two classmates (zoom is fine)4/29: In-class sending: (this may be continued on 5/2 if there’s interest)

Session 10: sending in-class: Send your best musical interpretation of BENS BEST BENT WIRE / 5.  Next, choose a pangram, or near-pangram you would like to share.  Some of my favorites:

  • Watch “Jeopardy!”, Alex Trebek’s fun TV quiz game.
  • Amazingly few discotheques provide jukeboxes.
  • Have a pick: twenty-six letters — no forcing a jumbled quiz.
  • Jamie quickly realized that the beautiful gowns are expensive.
  • Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs.

Bonus homework: Work a runner on 7QP or SST this weekend.

Session 11 – In-class sending: Compose a couple of sentences about your shack space, equipment, or any particular ritual you have before getting on the air (such as sending Bens Best Bent Wire!).

Bonus homework: Capture (and, optionally, work) two call signs from CWT.  (If you look in the syllabus, this will eventually have you working ten of them.  You will find a lot of the same people on at the same times.  Folks I see frequently at the 8pm one: NT6Q, N0TA, K6RB, AA3B, N5AW, W6LAX, K6NR, N3QE, K0MP, WC7Q)

Session 12: sending in-class: Let’s assume travel restrictions are removed and you have come into possession of DahDihCoin, usable for a DXVacation anywhere it’s accepted as legal tender.  Organize with your peers to select a leader responsible for herding hams, decide where you’re going, and volunteer for a role (e.g., radios, power, travel arrangements, food, visas, cabling, computers, entertainment).  Bring three sentences (topic on what your role is + two more on what you’re actually contributing) that about your role in the DX Vacation is.

Bonus homework: get your antenna & radio set up to make some contacts for the 7th area / New England / Indiana/ Delaware / 10-10 (on 10m only) QSO parties coming up the following weekend.

Session 13: sending in-class: With summer coming up, what TV shows should I binge watch?  Great suggestions from the Basic Class included The Queen’s Gambit and Great British Bake-off (have worked backwards and just completed the season where Rahul won with the edible rock garden).  I have re-watched The Expanse seasons 1-5 about A Lot Of Times now.

Bonus homework: Try to get at least three SST contacts this weekend (Friday and Sunday.)  Run a session of RufzXP and MorseRunner, and send me (privately) your best score.

Session 14 – In-class sending: Describe, in a couple of sentences, your CW/radio plans for the upcoming summer.

Bonus homework: Send me your suggestions for improvement for the class or mentoring.  What worked well for you?  Are there any additional resources that would have been useful?

Session 15 – In-class sending: Class roundtable.  Call a classmate, ask a simple question, they respond in CW, then call another classmate, etc.

Bonus homework: Try to work one of the operators in the CW Academy “Giving Back.”  The list of calls and times is in the calendar Geoff updated, also on

Session 16 – In-class sending: None.  We’ll do a quick review of what you’ve learned and I’ll answer any questions you have about the advanced class in the fall.

Bonus homework: You’re done!  Next weekend (Memorial Day) is CQ WW WPX, a contest where everybody works everybody else.  The exchange is simply 5NN and an increasing serial number.  This would be a really good time to learn some N1MM+! This time of year, expect 20m to be active during the daytime, but give 15m and 10m a peek just in case they’re active. In the evening, when 20m cools off, try 40m and 80m.