Enormous Metal Sculpture Becomes An Antenna

Those who have worked with high voltage know well enough that anything can be a conductor at high enough voltages. Similarly, amateur radio operators will jump at any chance to turn a random object into an antenna. Flag poles, gutters, and even streams of water can be turned into radiating elements for a transmitter, but the members of this amateur radio club were thinking a little bit bigger when they hooked up their transmitter to this giant sculpture.

For those who haven’t been to the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in upstate New York, the enormous metal behemoth is not a subtle piece of artwork and sits right at the entrance to the university. It’s over 70 feet tall and made out of bronze and steel, a dream for any amateur radio operator. With the university’s permission and some help to ensure everyone’s safety during the operation, the group attached a feedline to the sculpture with a magnet, while the shield wire was attached to a ground rod nearby. A Yaesu FT-991 running on only 5 watts and transmitting in the 20-meter band was able to make contacts throughout much of the eastern United States with this setup.

This project actually started as an in-joke within the radio club, as reported by Reddit user [bbbbbthatsfivebees] who is a member. Eventually the joke became reality, as the sculpture is almost a perfect antenna for certain ham bands. Others in the comments noted that they might have better luck with lower frequency bands such as the 40-meter band or possibly the 60-meter band, due to the height of the structure. And, for those who are still wondering if you really can use a stream of water to transmit radio waves, it is indeed possible.

16 thoughts on “Enormous Metal Sculpture Becomes An Antenna

  1. A ground rod is a horrible choice for a counterpoise. As Chris Maple says above, 80 meters would have made more sense for something that was 70 feet tall … that height on 40 meters would have been a high impedance feed. And a simple 65 foot wire laying on the ground would have been better as a counterpoise for 80 meters than a ground rod.

    1. I suspect they thought about that, but laying a 65ft long trip hazard across a public space with people most likely paying more attention to their phones than their feet is not something the university would have been likely to endorse. A ground rod is better than nothing.

    2. High impedance is not a problem to match. So for amateur radio high impedance antennas are not that uncommon, but it is easier to have a 50 Ohms match if it is an alternative. And yes a GP is not a great antenna above 10MHz compared to a yagi, but it works. Especially with a good groundplane with many radials.

  2. Finally a use for that eyesore. It’s only good viewing angle is from an administration building on a high floor where the students who paid for it can never go see it.

    Oh well, they already watered down the education by going to semesters. All that mattered was making transfers in easier to get more money.

    1. That’s a shame. Still though, it felt like they were doing stuff like that before. Like they’d accept nearly anyone who applied (and take their money ofc) and let the first quarter weed out anyone who couldn’t hack it. Maybe I’m just being cynical about it.

  3. I’ve heard churches are renting their spires to local cell phone companies and collecting a nice little monthly rental fee. Everyone is use to the church spires, and typically won’t complain about them. Cell phone companies have a lot of problems putting in new towers because of complaints from people. In Grass Valley CA, cell phone companmies have cyber trees. It looks like a big pine tree, but if you look closely, you can see the tree is artificial.

  4. Using an antenna tuner I loaded up and communicated using 5 Watts on 2 meters to a repeater 70 miles away using the following as an antenna: table saw, garage door, 6-foot ladder. No ground plane. Those were test runs; the following weekend it was used to load a highway call box mounting pole with the transmitter hidden behind a retaining wall as part of a T-Hunt. It was very effective as nobody could find a “traditional” antenna

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.