MAARS History

MAARS was formed in May, 1980 to support the migration from Chuck’s local-area repeater
into the large regional system it is today. Today, we utilize several receive sites scattered in SE Wisconsin, along with IRLP, to offer our users a balanced repeater system.

In 1976 Chuck N9EGR (then WB9ZCT), bought a brand new 100watt Motorola repeater.
The repeater was then coordinated on 147.18 MHz and was located at his parent’s house on 72nd and Locust.
In 1978, Chuck decided to move the repeater to higher ground on a tall barn in Menominee Falls. Chuck requested permission from Menominee Falls to put up a 100ft tower, but that permission never came. In 1980 the repeater was moved to Dan’s WB9DCX 100ft tower on 76th and Florist.

Shortly thereafter, Chuck investigated the 200-foot tower on Sandburg Hall at UWM.
With his neighbor and UWM Maintenance Supervisor Bob KA9CEK, the two contacted Rudy Tichy, the Secretary of UWM, and John Bedore WD9IUV, then President of the Amateur Radio Society at UWM. The group presented the UWM leadership on how the proposed repeater location would benefit UWM and the Community. During 1981, the group obtained
permission from the Chancellor of the UW System, and in October 1981, the repeater relocated to its present location. The frequency was changed to 145.13 to prevent interference with the Libertyville, IL repeater.

In May 1980, The Milwaukee Area Amateur Radio Society (MAARS) was formed to help support Chuck’s repeater. Also, an affiliation was formed with the Amateur Radio Society at UWM for their help in obtaining the repeater location.

The first members of the society were:

  • Chuck N9EGR
  • Bob KA9CEK
  • John W9KSP (First Club President)
  • Steve WB9UEN ( Now W9MCU )
  • John WD9IUV
  • Casper W9UMO
  • Jerry KA9CEJ
  • Gregory KB9BU

In August of 1982 MAARS installed and activated her first remote receive site, the first one in Southeastern Wisconsin. The antenna and feed line was located at Glen’s WB9BCP house, purchased from a repeater club for $300.
Since the repeater now had better reception than transmit power, Chuck and Bob asked WAR (Wisconsin Association of Repeaters) for a power increase from 400watts ERP to 1000watts ERP.

In 1986, the second remote site installed at Newburg went online.

The Jackson remote site was formed in 1991 by a special arrangement with ARES 147.165 and Milwaukee Repeater Club 146.910 to share one antenna on a commercial radio antenna. Later on, the Milwaukee Repeater Club decided not to use the location.

In 1993 we worked with three other clubs (FM-38 443.800, ARES 146.670, and SEWFARS 146.820), to share one antenna on a vacant commercial tower in Elm Grove. That relationship lasted until 1999 when the owner removed the UPS tower.

In 1994 Chuck N9EGR and Bob KA9CEK decided that they wanted to sell the repeater to the club. President Jim KE9WC, set forth a transition plan for the club to follow. Jim and his group developed the financial plan and began searching for a new trustee. Newly-elected President Greg WL7LI and Chuck N9EGR presented their choice for a new trustee to the board, Pat N9LKH. Pat’s nomination was approved at the January 1996 membership meeting.

In early 1998, MAARS became involved with the Sullivan Committee, a group of people dedicated to the proper reporting of Severe Weather to the National Weather Service. MAARS was asked to participate in the program for its linking abilities (we could link to a Madison repeater to create a large net), and for our wide area coverage in Southeastern Wisconsin.

MAARS was also present for the Y2K event on New Year’s Eve. ARES requested our support for the evening, asking us to cover the Milwaukee area and be ready to link with other locations if such communications were necessary. MAARS transmitted signals on both 2 meters and 70 cm, so that stations who had to crossband into an installation, or had to work off of a duplexer sharing an antenna, would be able to stay in the communications loop.

In August of 2002, Dave KA9WXN and Christian KC0ARF installed IRLP connectivity to the repeater. Using a Linux box at the repeater’s transmitter location, the club could now connect with other IRLP stations around the world. We also started re-transmitting Amateur Radio Newsline and participating in the AMSAT Net on Wednesday evenings during August.

In October of 2002, the Midtown receive site returned to service, adding HT coverage to central Milwaukee County.

In February 2003, MAARS stopped participating on the AMSAT net, due to remote quality control issues with the Net Control. Amateur Radio Newsline sessions continued operational.

In March of 2003, the MAARS Technical Committee began planning a massive upgrade to the repeater’s radio system. The committee decided to migrate away from older Motorola VHF receivers and 220 Mhz link radios to GE Delta VHF receivers and UHF link transmitters. These new hardware standards greatly simplified maintenance of the receive sites, as the older radios often required tweaks and adjustments to maintain performance. Over the Easter 2003 weekend, the repeater was reduced to a single receive site, and the major components were replaced at the main site. Other remote sites soon came online: Jackson, Vernon (SW), and the main site were the first sites converted with the new technology.

In August 2003, MAARS celebrated our first year on IRLP.

On November 7, 2003, MAARS suffered a lightning strike at our Jackson receive site. While our equipment was protected, the spike took out an iso coupler that is vital to the operation of that particular receive site. MAARS member Greg Wolfe, K9ZZZ offered his home as a temporary receive site while options are explored to replace the iso-coupler at our very sensitive NW receive site.

Starting the week before Thanksgiving in 2003, MAARS members started having a simplex net on SSB. Using 2m USB on 144.23, members began trying out their new multi-mode radios, such as the Icom 706 and Yaesu FT100D. The net became a success, with an average of 15 – 20 people weekly checking into the net and talking on SSB.

In January 2004, the Technical Committee tried to restore service to Newburg and found that the owners raised the tower rent outside of our budget. The Board will discuss options on how to enhance service NE of Milwaukee.

In February 2004, the Technical Committee moved the Jackson site hardware from Greg’s house to the new Community receive site. The Jackson site remains unhooked, as a new iso-coupler is not available yet.

In April 2004, the club will enjoy our first complete year using the new receiver hardware. The efforts of the Technical Committee paid off… thank you, guys!

Beginning in Mid-2004, MAARS experimented with a Swapnet that involved IRLP, linking up most of Wisconsin, and a couple of IRLP stations out-of-state. The Swapnet averages 15/20 check-ins per week.

Also in 2005, during field day, Dave KA9WXN setup an 802.11(b) wireless computer connection from the top of Sandburg Hall to be used at the field day site with Steve WB9UEN. Christian KC0ARF from Green Bay remote-programmed the IRLP computer to pass network traffic between the two networks. We set up a successful 30+ mile Wireless network from our repeater site to the field day site, and computers at field day could check radar images, packet clusters, and utilize other internet functionality with this link.

Ongoing projects at the present time include our association with the Sullivan Committee,
a commitment that we are honored to participate in. Our membership also continues to participate in several public service events, such as the West Allis Western Days parade and working with the Special Olympics.

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