Maker News
Radios of a Different Frequency
The guts of my own Matsui PR37 pocket radio — I’ve had this guy for nearly a decade!


Working on the latest Weekend Projects Newsletter, about the Aircraft Band Receiver, sparked my own interest. Of course, like other readers, I had questions about hearing amplitude modulated (AM) sound on a FM-expanded receiver. And like any good blogger, within minutes, I had more opened tabs than I could deal with. I saved some as bookmarks, to filter through later, but then it dawned on me that the best place to ask questions would be at the forthcoming World Maker Faire next weekend in Queens, NYC. I did some quick research (more tabs!) and found several Faire projects all using radio to one degree or another.


The go-to source for my questions will be New York’s own Hall of Science Amateur Radio Club. Using homemade antennas, this group has successfully communicated with over 300 countries around the globe, bouncing their voices via AM radio off of the planet’s ionosphere (which FM can’t do). Look for them as a standalone project in Zone C at World Maker Faire.

Bring a radio with you or find one at NYSCI’s own Deconstruction Lab, located in Zone A in the NYSCI Village, at the Rocket Park. For ages 6 & up, find a radio there and actually take it apart. See its guts and then rip them out! One of the few projects at the Faire where “making” means deconstructing.

This iTrip was originally made to broadcast on FM radio (88-108MHz) using a since-discontinued line of iPod Nanos. When that hardware got replaced, these devices became obsolete. However, artist-hackers Ed Bear and Lea Bertucci have found a way to hack the devices, turning each one into an FM radio station for any device, using a standard stereo mini plug. Look for them giving workshops in Zone B, near the hackerspaces.

While you’re over near the hackerspaces, stop by North Brooklyn’s own Alpha One Labs and make a coin deposit in their Laser-duino-FRS. Your coin will interrupt a laser which triggers an Arduino to give a call-out over Family Radio Service (FRS), operating at 49MHz. They’ll be happy to tell you how they made this work.

And lastly, the Table for Electronic Dreams (inside the NY Hall of Science, 2nd floor, in the Viscusi Gallery) will visually respond to your radio’s electromagnetic “personality,” revealing hidden electrical activity. This project more than any other makes me imagine how happy Tesla would be to see that our devices really are alive.

And don’t forget, we want to see YOUR hacked radio projects here online. Especially if you hack an FM radio to tune into the aircraft band, we want to hear about it. Take photos of yourself in the field using it and tell us your stories. Send to the Weekend Projects email address.

See all of the RadioShack Weekend Projects posts (to date)


I'm an artist & maker. A lifelong biblioholic, and advocate for all-things geekathon. Home is Long Island City, Queens, which I consider the greatest place on Earth. 5-year former Resident of Flux Factory, co-organizer for World Maker Faire (NYC), and blogger all over the net. Howdy!

View more articles by Nick Normal