Some 85 engineers and
other station employees attended this year’s Public Radio
Engineering Conference in April. That compares to about 65 last year.
the eight people recognized by the Association of Public Radio
Engineers as founding board members were, from left, Paxton Durham,
Rich Parker and Ralph Hogan.
by Jim Peck
The Association of
Public Radio Engineers organizes the annual event. Members pride
themselves on offering practical and forward-thinking technical
information that can be useful to both non-commercial and commercial
This year’s conference
was held at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas prior to the spring NAB
Show. Among the highlights of the 14th annual PREC:
HAS NEW OFFICERS
The Association of
Public Radio Engineers voted in a new slate of officers in May. The
group has been around long enough that the makeup of the entire board
has now turned over.
The all-volunteer APRE
launched in 2006 and incorporated as a nonprofit organization in
2008. APRE launched as an educational member organization for
non-commercial radio engineers and other technical personnel. When
the group formed, the premise was to be open to technical personnel
of any public radio facility. At the Public Radio Engineering
Conference, the organization changed its bylaws to allow retired
public radio personnel to remain members.
Also, as several of its
founding members rotate off the board, APRE wanted to honor them and
other former founding board members. Board service is limited to two
consecutive three-year terms.
Eight engineers were
recognized with founding APRE board member emeritus plaques: Jan
Andrews, former senior engineer, NPR Labs; Gordon Carter, former
chief engineer of WFMT(FM), Chicago; Paxton Durham, chief engineer
for WVTF(FM), Roanoke, Va.; Ralph Hogan, director of engineering for
KJZZ(FM), Tempe, Ariz. who was APRE’s founding president; Roger
Karwoski, former assistant manager and director of engineering for
KBIA(FM), Columbia, Mo.; John Holt, chief engineer, WAMU(FM),
Washington; Rich Parker, former director of engineering for Vermont
Public Radio and now with Coast Alaska; and Doug Vernier, president
and owner of V-Soft Communications.
Those not in attendance
received their plaques via mail.
At a subsequent board
meeting in May, APRE elected a new slate of executive committee
members for 2014–15:
Jobie Sprinkle, director
of engineering/IT, WFAE(FM), Charlotte, N.C., is now president of
APRE, moving up from vice president. Paxton Durham, one of the eight
founding board members, becomes immediate past president and remains
on the executive committee.
David Antoine, chief
engineer, WBGO(FM), Newark, N.J., is now vice president; Shane Toven
remains treasurer. Toven is former director of engineering for
Wyoming Public Media, now technology advisor; he is the new editor of
Dan Houg, chief
engineer, KAXE(FM), Grand Rapids, Minn., becomes secretary of APRE.
Joining the board for
three-year terms are Vermont Public Radio Director of Operations
Victoria St. John and NPR Labs Technical Researcher Alice Goldfarb.
They join other board members: Robert Carroll, chief engineer,
WWNO(FM), New Orleans; Jonathan Clark, sales manager, Shively Labs;
Dan Mansergh, director of radio engineering and media technology,
KQED(FM), San Francisco; and Bruce Wahl, senior solutions architect,
USES FURNACE TO HEAT SATELLITE DISH
Rhode Island Public
Radio uses an unconventional method of melting snow off its 12.5-foot
Most stations have their
dishes at their studios, where it’s easy to send someone outside
with a broom to brush the snow out of the dish. However RIPR’s
studios are in downtown Providence, while the satellite dish is about
three miles away in North Providence at its old AM site. The dish
also sits on the edge of an embankment, so climbing up to clean out
the dish is hard, according to RIPR Director of Engineering Aaron
Island Public Radio’s Aaron Read discussed a way to use hot air
from a furnace to melt snow off a satellite dish.
by Jim Peck
“Dish heaters can get
overwhelmed by heavy, wet snow,” Read told PREC attendees. He
needed a different solution.
There is a large
forced-air furnace in the shelter building near the dish and Read
wanted to use that hot air to melt the snow in the satellite dish. He
rigged up insulated vent tubing and fans as well as furnace ductwork
to the shelter building.
The ductwork goes to the
main hot air furnace output inside the building. Now, that hot air is
blown into the cavity between the satellite dish and the heavy-duty
vinyl dish cover, which was fabricated by Walton De-Ice.
The retrofit is working
and kept the dish clear enough this winter for RIPR to maintain its
satellite downlink with NPR. The project cost about $2,000 as opposed
to a projected $16,000 for a full retrofit, he said.
Read hopes eventually to
replace the dryer tubing with PVC pipe to reduce heat loss.
MOVE SPURRED SEVERAL CHANGES
Employees of National
Public Radio’s Distribution Division are still ticking various
items off their punch list a year after their move to the new
building on North Capitol Street in Washington.
And that’s perfectly
all right, said Mark Murphy, director of engineering for NPR
Distribution, which manages the Public Radio Satellite System. The
move was a success for NPR Distribution, he said.
Murphy told attendees
that PRSS is going through several transitions. For example, the way
the uplink equipment is laid out has changed because employees were
able to use fiber optics to carry the signal from the roof antenna on
down to the Network Operations Center.
NPR Distribution also
used the opportunity of new space to shift from analog to digital
audio routing, along with the rest of the company. “All audio in
this building is now digital,” said Murphy.
“The move gave us an
opportunity to start fresh and use the latest equipment available.
Today, we’re in a much better place than if we had tried to do the
same modernization without moving.”
What has he learned
through the move process? “It’s worth it to do to things
systematically. We managed to do that but the temptation to cut
corners and rush gets stronger” as move date approaches. He
recommends that project managers fight that urge, and have the
discipline to carry out your plan, rather than just responding to the
crisis of the day. Keeping up with documentation is important also.
Murphy is one of several
NPR employees who spoke at PREC about the move.
NPR Labs has several
ongoing projects; one of those is the Department of Homeland Security
alerting project for the deaf and hard-of hearing. The testing,
funded by FEMA and managed by the Department of Homeland Security,
involves development of an accessible FM RDS receiver to be used in
an emergency alerting demonstration program in the Gulf Coast region.
The work involves
testing broadcast emergency texts with some 250 deaf and/or
hard-of-hearing volunteers through 26 public stations in Alabama,
Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
NPR Labs Director Rich
Rarey said the Labs is set to begin testing with the volunteers on
this project. One engineer, Sam Brown, has driven some 1,000 miles,
making sure all the equipment is ready.
NPR Labs is also working
with the National Radio Systems Committee on studies to determine
compatibility of FM single-sideband transmissions and a study on AM
modulation-dependent carrier level transmissions. It is also updating
its HD Radio power calculator.
Rarey was recently
promoted, following the retirement of Mike Starling. John Kean is
senior technologist, Alice Goldfarb is technical researcher, and Paul
Littleton is technical research assistant for the Labs. Dr. Ellyn
Sheffield is a consulting partner.
of APRE’s 2014 Engineering Achievement Award NPR’s Bud Aiello,
left, and consulting engineer Gray Frierson Haertig.
by Jim Peck
The Association of
Public Radio Engineers chose two recipients for its 2014 Engineering
Achievement Award: Bud Aiello, director of engineering technology at
NPR and Gray Frierson Haertig, owner and principal engineer of Gray
Frierson Haertig & Associates.
Award recipients are
nominated by their peers. Aiello’s nomination noted his work on
NPR’s new technical facility, where he served as the architect for
the overall systems. “From the early days of designing, to climbing
in the construction hole to check the contractor’s welds of the
grounding grid, to wrestling into submission multiple vendors,”
Bud’s work proved to be invaluable, the group said.
engineers wrote on the nomination form that Aiello “has a keen eye
for detail, uncanny instincts for problem-solving, and is a gifted
arbiter of where to take advantage of new technologies and where to
avoid risks with designs he has reason to doubt will bear the tests
Aiello said he spent the
first half of his career in commercial radio and thanked former NPR
Vice President/Chief Technology Officer Mike Starling for hiring him
from WAVA(AM/FM), Arlington, Va. Aiello called the NPR studio builds
— the recent one on North Capitol Street, and the prior one at the
old Massachusetts Avenue building — “a lot of fun.”
The nomination form
submitted for Gray Haertig pointed to his “prolific presence” on
the Pubtech listserv that “has educated and mentored a significant
number of engineers still on the steep side of the learning curve of
radio engineering.” Also noted was his work with “numerous new
non-commercial radio facilities including those stations serving
indigenous populations” for which he provided RF engineering
services that were needed to build, remodel or improve.
Haertig estimated he has
completed FCC filings for 300 to 350 stations non-commercial stations
over the years. He credited Ben Dawson, now managing partner and
senior engineer at Hatfield & Dawson Consulting Engineers, for
taking him “under his wing” when Haertig was in high school. When
Haertig graduated, he got his FCC First Class license and Dawson made
him chief engineer of a new station in Portland, Ore.
“I made lots of
mistakes. That’s how you learn,” said Haertig, but he also
learned “not to make mistakes in front of a client.” Portland is
where Haertig’s engineering consulting firm is based.
awards were presented at the annual APRE/PREC Engineering Awards