Capital Campaign

Radio Society and Friends on July 4th

Update on Radome Project (October 27, 2020)

Our perseverance is beginning to pay off! After much discussion and collaboration with MIT Facilities and various contractor groups involved in the Green Building renovations project, we have a tentative price tag for the renewal of our Large Radome!

Though the final cost has yet to be precisely determined, the overall price is expected to be up to $500k.

We have already raised a significant portion of this in the process of our overall station renovation fundraising drive. We are confident that this new target can be achieved, especially given that there is additional interest in this project across MIT -- from Physics' J-Lab to AeroAstro's Small Sat Center and STAR Lab.

If we can raise this $500k, we can ensure that this historic radome can continue to serve the MIT Radio Society and the MIT community overall. With your support, we can safeguard this treasure.

If you would like to help us make this a reality, please consider making a donation here.

Saving the Green Building Radomes

We would like to thank all our donors for your generous support!

When we set out in search of support in late 2019, we were faced with what looked like the beginning of a very dark period for Amateur Radio at MIT. Thanks to you, the club is instead in one of the best positions it has ever been in. In spite of all that 2020 has brought we raised over $230,000, and what’s more, the overwhelming support you showed for the club helped make that go farther than we ever hoped. MIT is now supporting much of the renovation of our physical space directly, enabling us to direct our resources not just to rebuilding, but to improving our VHF/UHF and microwave contest and research station, W1XM, on the Green Building roof for the MIT community.

But we still need your support going forward. While the core of the W1XM station is safe, the fate of the historic radomes that have stood atop the Green Building for the past 55 years remains uncertain.

The radomes were built under the direction of Pauline Austin for MITs weather radar research program, and are now at the heart of microwave experiments at W1XM. The large radome and the 6m dish it contains is currently used for earth-moon-earth communication and radio astronomy by the club, with plans to support cubesat missions along with a host of possible future experiments. We’ve also been supporting radio astronomy experiments in MIT Junior Lab, and in that capacity the large radome served (and continues to serve) as part of the Radio Society’s and the Department of Physics’ academic response to covid19

We recently circulated an open letter seeking support from the MIT community for saving the radomes, and in response MIT has begun a design study of options for restoration. We’ll be updating this site as we learn more. We don’t yet know what the costs of preserving the radomes will be. It may even be that we are already in a position to support it as is, but if not we will need YOUR help to make it a reality!

New rooftop research space needed for W1XM - please help!

111 years after its founding, the MIT Radio Society is flourishing. Student interest in RF engineering, telecommunications, and radio science is growing. Alongside that growth, the club’s student membership has swelled. In addition to our 30+ regular members, we’ve attracted an audience from across the nation with the lecture series we’ve hosted.

Now we need your help! The center of many of our activities, located on the roof of the iconic Green Building (MIT’s tallest academic building), is at risk due to a major renovation. Beginning this spring, the Green Building is being renovated and our rooftop shack is to be removed. This space is currently home to our VHF/UHF and microwave contest and research station, W1XM, as well our 70cm repeater, and a host of student projects. If we wish to keep our home there, we need to raise $300,000 before April 2020 for the renewal of our space.

Sadly, the club does not have the financial reserves on hand to replace the W1XM shack. So we are asking for your help! We’re already part of the way towards our goal and have some great volunteers - with YOUR help we know we can reach our goal!

Opportunities for the Radio Society in the next decade

This is also an opportunity to expand the capabilities we provide to the MIT community. MIT has a few classes on radio, RF, and microwave electronics from which students can learn the basics. But even with all the makerspaces across campus, there is nowhere other than W1XM that can currently support independent student research and projects with these technologies, offering students valuable experiential learning opportunities in electrical engineering.

The Green Building roof is the heart of that capability. It is the site of our analog and digital repeaters providing emergency communications across the greater Boston area. It currently has equipment for communicating on all amateur bands between 50 MHz and 2304 MHz, and it supports an ever evolving assortment of student experiments that need long lines of sight and a relatively RF quiet space.

Over the past year alone, club members have installed infrastructure for point-to-point data links across the city, deployed SDR receiver systems for airplane tracking and spectrum monitoring, reverse engineered and repaired Motorola repeater equipment, and experimented with a real-time kinematic GPS correction system, among many other projects. We also refitted the 55-year-old MIT weather radar for microwave earth-moon-earth communication and radio astronomy, which has been a massive mechanical and electrical engineering project that has taught us more about building complex systems than any of our coursework. All that has been alongside continual work on the W1XM contest station itself, which is constantly evolving as members learn and figure out ways to improve it.

All of these projects are supported by our laboratory in Walker Memorial, which is the most capable space on campus for students who want to work independently on RF and microwave circuits, sporting a wide variety of RF and microwave equipment, and even a new 1GHz bandwidth oscilloscope donated by Keysight Technologies.

Our vision

Our dream for the new station on the top of the Green Building is a space that provides expanded opportunities for students to explore not just amateur radio but the whole spectrum of intersecting fields, from experimenting with radio propagation and learning about the ionosphere, to radio astronomy, signal processing, microwave electronics, and more.

We envision a station with banks of SDRs and servers that students can access remotely and program for experiments; a station that has current state of the art in amateur radio equipment for research, contests, general communication, and emergency operations. And a space that lends itself to uses we may not yet anticipate, with room for new hardware and experiments students choose to create in future.

Our priority is to expand access to and use of W1XM to as many students as possible to maximize the value we provide the MIT community, both by enabling remote access to the station for its current uses, by providing an improved space on the roof itself for students doing all manner of radio related experiments, and eventually by partnering with other groups at MIT in supporting students exploring radio and communications technologies.

How you can help

If you would like to help, please consider making a gift to the “EAPS Roof Fund for the Radio Society” (#3704485) - you can either make your gift with a credit card online, or if you would consider a stock gift or have other questions about making a major gift, please contact Angela Ellis, EAPS Senior Development Officer at aellis@mit.edu or 617-253-5796. If you would like to volunteer to help with our campaign, please contact w1xm-officers@mit.edu.