When 10 nearly-new FM transmitters from Norway were offered to our partner TWR, they jumped at the opportunity. However, the transmitters needed to be evaluated, tested and modified before they were ready to ship to their final destinations. That’s when they contacted SonSet Solutions.
Dave Pederson and SonSet Solutions’ Larry McGuire, both TWR engineers, set to work on the project. Together they created a proof-of-performance checklist, re-wired the power supply to accommodate a different voltage, and changed the operating frequency for the first of the transmitters. They also worked together to redesign the ventilation system. The Rohde and Schwarz design received pressurized cooling air from the bottom of the rack, which sat on a raised floor. For their new homes, a ventilation hole was cut in the bottom of the left side-panel and a blower installed to provide a new source for cooling air. Once the first transmitter was completed, Larry modified and tested the remaining nine units. Finally, special heat-treated shipping crates were needed in order to satisfy the importation requirements of their new host countries. Four of the transmitters are now in the hands of TWR’s Peruvian partners and will soon be broadcasting the gospel.
Many of SonSet Solutions’ international ministry partners, using sophisticated electronic equipment, are at risk of equipment damage due to unreliable electrical power. Imagine the frustration experienced by a Christian radio station or a mission hospital when their expensive equipment is destroyed in an instant by something so esoteric as the electricity coming from their outlets. Is the problem with their provider, with how they set up their facility, or due to the way their neighbor is using power next door?
During the summer of 2019, two interns, Maury Funez and Michael Dubisz, began the development of a solution – a low cost power quality monitor. This device will help visualize the abstract electrical power quality by measuring and recording specific properties of the electricity at a ministry location. This data will then be transmitted via the Internet to the team of engineers at SonSet Solutions. They, like a team of doctors, can examine the symptoms, write up a diagnosis, and prescribe a treatment in the form of an affordable power quality solution tailored to a specific partner’s need. The power quality monitor is in the functional prototype phase, and plans are under way for their deployment. Soon they will be helping ministries overcome their electrical power quality problems, effectively increasing their reach into local communities.
Traditionally, when ministries approach SonSet Solutions, it is for help building a Christian FM radio station with a range of about 10-15 miles. The installation averages about $20,000, and several staff are needed to operate it. SonSet Solutions is working on a radically different concept to help ministries and churches reach the lost in their immediate neighborhood.
We are developing a small, modular Wi-Fi system to “broadcast” Christian content up to about 100 yards, depending on the terrain. It will be a portable, self-contained unit that can be placed on the rooftop of a church, for example, and provide a variety of content to nearby cell-phone users 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The content can be tailored to the needs and interests of the micro-community that the church wants to reach.
It all costs less than $500 and doesn’t require any full-time staff to operate it. Because it is not a real FM radio station, there are no government applications, red tape or delays to deal with. It could be purchased, installed and broadcasting all in the same day helping our ministry partners more efficiently and effectively reach their immediate communities with the Good News of Jesus Christ!
Yes, being a Christian and a techie can be perfectly normal and purposeful in ministry. It is possible to share both profound spiritual conversations and technical discussions. The International Conference on Computing and Mission (ICCM) is the place where people can go to meet other Christian technologists who are striving to advance Jesus’ Great Commission by using their skills.
Understanding the joys and realities that come with combining technical things and ministry allows for networking and sharing the “latest and greatest” ideas and experiences within our rapidly changing world. For example, the “What’s Hot/What’s Not” session is an opportunity to share both practical advice and common struggles. What are you buying? What are you NOT buying? What are you getting rid of? What about anti-virus and malware?
Our own Dr. Leon Amstutz led a session this year discussing electronic equipment power protection and grounding practices. This issue is particularly important in developing countries where electrical power surges can destroy expensive, sensitive equipment. Sharing ideas, observations, and know-how provides an avenue for more effective use of technology, bringing the gospel to every nation.
Sometimes you learn more when something breaks than when it works as planned. You plan, design, build and it looks like it’s working, but then it just quits for some unknown reason. That’s the nature of engineering. If that happens, you study it and figure out why it quit and then redesign it to make it better. And in the end, you end up with a better product than when you started.
That’s what happened to SonSet Solutions engineer Tom Scatliff on a trip to Pioneer Christian Hospital early in 2019. He took a prototype piece of equipment with him so that we could do valuable field testing and collect data in real-life operating conditions. A few days after he arrived and turned the prototype unit ON, it stopped working. But since Tom was still there when it failed, he was able to analyze the problem and do some serious troubleshooting to figure out what the problem was.
We praise God that in His providence, He allowed the prototype to fail while Tom was still on site. We gained invaluable knowledge from this experience and will hopefully be able to incorporate lessons learned into a better product for our partner ministries as we work hand-in-hand to share the love of God to the whole world.
The primary reason our partner ministry radio stations go off the air in developing countries is due to “dirty power” which results when abnormalities occur in the electricity supplied to a piece of equipment. Power that spikes too high or drops too low can damage the FM transmitters’ delicate electronics causing the broadcasts to go silent.
SonSet Solutions has been working on this problem and has taken the monitor portion of our Equipment Power Protection technology to come up with a solution. On a trip to Pioneer Christian Hospital in Impfondo, Republic of Congo, early in 2019, SonSet Solutions missionary Tom Scatliff installed a prototype unit that constantly measured and logged the public utility power and the hospital’s own generators over a certain length of time. It recorded all the spikes, dropouts, surges, or any other kind of dirty power that might damage sensitive electronics. Engineers back at SonSet Solutions can then analyze what the major power problems are for the hospital and the hospital’s Christian radio station, and tailor a power protection solution for them specifically geared to those power problems.
When this prototype is completed, it will be another valuable tool that SonSet Solutions can use to help our worldwide partner ministries be more effective in spreading the gospel to a lost and dying world!
Knowledge is power. The Kimia Leprosy Center operated by the Pioneer Christian Hospital in Impfondo, Republic of Congo, has taken that saying to heart. Driving deep into the Congolese rainforest, they set up temporary bases where they diagnose new leprosy patients and show films. One film educates about the treatability of leprosy. The other is the Jesus film. On a recent trip, 500 villagers accepted Christ after watching the Jesus film!
Sometimes the Kimia team gets stuck in the middle of nowhere with no cell service and no way to call for help. The hospital has no idea where they are or if they are in danger.
SonSet Solutions has been working on a solution adapted from our satellite-based clean water well monitoring technology. On a trip to Pioneer Christian Hospital early in 2019, SonSet Solutions missionary Tom Scatliff mounted a satellite modem on top of the Kimia truck to monitor its GPS location. SonSet Solutions also programmed the modem to act as an emergency beacon. Now if the Kimia team runs into trouble on one of its trips into the deep jungle, they can flip a switch and the hospital will know the exact GPS coordinates of the truck and can send someone to retrieve them.
More than a year ago, a SonSetLinkTM water pump monitoring device encountered a technical hurdle. A satellite modem critical to this device was declared obsolete by its manufacturer. Having been given no prior warning, it caught SonSet Solutions’ engineers Cody Hall and David Palmer by surprise — scrambling to ensure that monitoring devices would still be available while a challenging redesign ensued.
Since then, after much prayer and hard work, a new version has been completed. The new design, although primarily suited for one of our partner ministries, can still be used by any other ministry with similar needs for water pump monitoring.
Specifically, the redesigned unit measures flow in gallons or liters (from solar-power or electric pumps), temperature, time-in-use of the pump each day, battery level and flow history data (in case any transmissions are missed).
How does this differ from the previous version? The new design incorporates the SmartOneC satellite modem, is more compact, includes many improvements for easier production, and has several aesthetic changes. Lord willing, this new water pump monitoring device will clear the way for a steady production flow of units to ministries around the world.