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RCA Fellow Dr. James Breakall Receives Technical Achievement Award from Hamvention

Amy Beckham | Published on 3/9/2023
2023 Hamvention Technical Achievement Award to RCA Fellow, Dr. James Breakall

The Technical Achievement Award recipient is Dr. James Breakall, WA3FET, whose work has been instrumental in amateur radio antenna technology for decades. He has teamed with many experts in the field to develop state-of-the-art advancements with a wide range of applications, including the Numerical Electromagnetics Code (NEC). As a professor of electrical engineering at Penn State University from 1989 to 2022, Dr. Breakall developed cutting-edge antenna technology and mentored his students in amateur radio, resulting in 700 new licensees. Now a retired Professor Emeritus, he serves as a consultant to the Army, Air Force, and Navy on many antenna-related projects.

Nittany Scientific, a company initiated with his students, developed some of the first optimization methods applied to NEC in a package called NECOPT, a design he called Optimized Wideband Antenna (OWA) Yagi. The goals of the optimization were minimum peak SWR in a band, maximizing the lowest gain in a band, and maximizing the minimum front-to-back ratio in a band. These OWA Yagi designs have been used in numerous contest and DX stations around the world. Because Breakall wanted this technology to be readily available worldwide, he has never pursued patent licensing. He was also the first to use helicopter measurements and Geometrical Theory of Diffraction (GTD) techniques for antennas in terrain at HF that led to software such as TA and HFTA.

In 2010, Dr. Breakall collaborated with Joe Taylor, Angel Vazquez, WP3R, and Pedro Piza, Jr., NP4A, to use the Arecibo 1000-foot dish for EME. He worked on many antenna designs at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico and at the HAARP facility in Alaska. Dr. Breakall has frequently presented at Hamvention forums to share his expertise on antenna design and enthusiasm for amateur radio. As an avid amateur radio contester, Dr. Breakall has built contest stations in Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico, and he has participated in more than 100 contests; he has also won a fair amount of them. Dr. Breakall has authored numerous peer-reviewed scientific articles and books.