This is Richmond Amateur Radio Club's first time participation in the Gulf of Georgia Cannery annual 'Festival of Trees' where participating organizations from the Steveston/Richmond community each decorate a (Christmas) tree, which are on display at the Cannery Museum until Dec. 24. Visitors can vote for their favourite tree by either casting a ballot at the tree on display at the Cannery Museum or vote online on the GOG Website, or visit the GOG Facebook and Instagram sites and 'like' the image of the tree.

'Communicating to One World' was chosen as the name and theme for RARC's tree because we wanted to portray the image of Amateur radio and represent what Amateur radio is all about. While Morse Code and other traditional radio communication practices remain, Amateur radio now takes place in outer space on the International Space Station (ARISS program) and orbiting satellites (CubeSats) carrying Amateur radio (OSCAR). Using Morse code, the phonetic alphabet and Amateur radio protocols, (ham) operators from around the world, enhancd by the accessibility of today's technology, can communicate with one another in one universal language. ...Like!


Designs for the ornaments are based on the three key components of Amateur radio activity: equipment (rig), transmitted message (traffic), and operator (ham). The ornaments are handmade and organized accordingly: satellites to represent the modern technology, printed coasters to display the messages commonly used, and miniature figures to represent the RARC members.

Cube Satellites - The satellites are all scratch-built in three-quarters and half scale of the actual CubeSats which are only 10x10x10 cm (4x4x4 in) in size. Materials used are scrap items from around the house, adding creativity and a bit of whimsy into each design.

Coasters with Amateur Radio Content - Modified coasters with printed designs display abbreviations and codes commonly used in Amateur radio traffic along with words and phrases of the season. Also displayed are accronyms of national and international organizations representing Amateur radio as a global activity.

Figures from Building Sets - Minifigures from popular building sets are used to represent Amateur radio operators, each with scratch-built handheld radios and emergency communications vests. Attention to detail has been given to diplay the RARC VHF repeater frequency on the radios and actual call sign of RARC members on each vest.


Two types of satellite models are constructed: whimsical compositions based on cardboard cubes, and more true to scale replicas of actual CubeSats. Bricks and pieces from popular building sets along with items from around the house and run down computer parts were used for the whimsical appearance of each 'cube.' Odd items included: pop cans, ballpoint pen parts, zip ties, a printer ink cartridge and pull tab from a Spam can. See if you can identify these and other ecclectic household items on the satellite ornaments.


Word, letter codes and messges displayed on the coasters are just some examples of what is commonly transmitted by Amateur radio operator. These are also sent in Morse code, hence the code translation on the coasters. The following are explanations of the codes displayed:

CQ - Used to openly call for other operators, usually repeated 3 times (to sound like 'seek you')
QSO - A frequently used Q-code(abbreviated letter code) to indicate or confirm a radio contact
QTH - Q-code for location
RST - Accronym for signal report to represent: readability, strength and tone (of what is heard)
WX - Symbol for weather, anything concrning the weather begins with WX
CN89 - Maidenhead grid square geographic locator used in Amateur radio (VE7GOG is CN89jd)
73 - Numeric code meaning best regards or my compliments from Phillips code in telegraph era
88 - Means love and kisses also from the Phillips code
GOG - Used by RARC members for its club station, call sign VE7GOG, situated on the GOG Cannery site (GOG also publicly refers to the Gulf of Georgia Cannery Society)

Explanation for acronyms of Amateur radio organizations and designations:

AMSAT - International educational organization fostering Amateur radio participation in space research and communication
ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) - Program supported by space agencies and Amateur radio organizations inspiring students to pursue interests in careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programs through Amateur radio
OSCAR (Operating Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio) - Designation by AMSAT for satellites equipped with Amateur radio equipment like VHF/UHF repeaters
IARU (International Amateur Radio Union) - Federation of Amateur radio organizations providing an international voice with representation on ITU (International Telecommunications Union)
RAC (Radio Amateurs of Canada) - National organization representing Amateur radio in Canada, a member of IARU
ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) - Organizations of trained volunteers in Canada and US to provide assistance in public service and emergency communications


Using 'minifigures' from popular building sets not only add a playful element to the array of ornaments reflecting the spirit of the season, but they also bring a contrast to the geometric and technical composition of the CubeSats with personal call signs on each vests.

Each figure is further personalized with scratch-built handheld radios, each with antennas of varying lengths and detailed with the RARC VHF repeater frequency on the dsplay. The radios are held by the hand and some are attached to the vest of the figures.


There is nothing more fitting for a tree with a communications theme than topping it with an antenna - something that resembles the radio tower by the parking lot at the club station VE7GOG. To construct a replica of the tower and making it fit on the top of the tree, the frame was built with sturdy metal Meccano parts, the antenna scratch built using railroad modelling sprues to resemble the 10, 15, 20 and 40 metre antenna elements, and selecting Lego Technic components to connect the antenna array to the tower.


Thank you to our team of RARC members involved in this project:
- Allan, VE7WXZ
- Roy, VA7RTL
- Carole, VA7QCE
- Urey Chan, VE7URE

RARC Decorating Team: Urey, VE7URE, Carole, VA7QCE, Allan, VE7WXZ and Roy, VA7RTL
Photo credit: Mimi Horita, Marketing and Visitor Services Manager, GOG Cannery


Canada Space Agency - What is a CubeSat

NASA - CubeSats Overview

AMSAT For Beginners - Getting Started on Amateur Radio Satellites

AMSAT Live OSCAR - Satellite Status Page

ARISS in Canada

Back to RARC main Website
Updated: December 20, 2020