WUVT: Radio for Everyone! 90.7 FM

Meet WUVT Engineering's Corey Carpenter!

written by Amir Lahoud on

What Does WUVT Engineering Do?

"The Engineering Staff at WUVT is in charge of keeping audio flowing from our studio to the transmitter. With 100-something DJs using the studio each week, this is easier said than done.

We’re sorta like tech support for the studio equipment. Whenever something breaks, WUVT engineers are the ones who duct tape it back together (or talk the DJ through how to duct tape it themselves).

We also work proactively; constantly making improvements to the station (or at least trying to).

In addition to maintenance, we also work closely with the Production Staff to set up WUVT’s various live events. WUVT uses a lot of heavy equipment to host shows, and with the right amount of people, we can get an entire show set up in 10 minutes.

As the Chief Engineer, my job is to understand how the station’s audio network works, and to coordinate the Engineering Staff so that we can tackle problems in a somewhat-organized manner. I also work directly with alumni in the field to learn how professional stations operate, acquire new equipment, and keep our transmitter running."

Why Did We Get a New Transmitter? What Does It Do?

"Natalie (we give our transmitters names) is a giant, refrigerator-sized device that lives in a shack near our antenna on Price Mountain. Its job is to take an audio signal, turn it into an FM radio signal, and then scream it out of our antenna at 6.5 kilowatts. Our old transmitter, Harriett, had been in constant operation for over 25 years. Its electronics were getting worn down by heat, and it could only output 96% of the power it used to. Coupled with the fact that it was getting expensive to fix, we decided that it'd be best to get a new transmitter, and make Harriett our backup.

The thing is, you can’t just go downtown and buy a commercial FM transmitter. These things are large, complex, and expensive; so buying and installing a new one is quite an operation.

But, thanks to the generous contributions of our alumni, donors, and management, we were able to secure the funds and resources needed to make it happen. Because of their help, WUVT will not need a new transmitter for the next 25 years (knock on wood)."

What's the Most Challenging Engineering "Problem" That Occurred During Your Time at WUVT?

"Funnily enough, the craziest problem that I’ve come across happened the same day as the transmitter installation. The night before the install, we were changing the connectors on the CD players out because of some interference issues. But in the process, the connector for the right channel on one player was accidentally soldered backwards; the positive wire was connected where the negative one should go, and vice versa. This, in turn, caused the audio signal through that connector to be negative when it was supposed to be positive; essentially flipping it upside down. We’d basically multiplied the signal by -1.This doesn’t sound like a significant issue, both figuratively and literally. Speakers and audio stuff don’t really care whether the signal is the right way up or not. They’ll play it anyway, and we didn’t hear anything out of the ordinary when we were testing the players out afterwards. It all sounded fine in the station. The problem is when the audio gets sent to the transmitter.

In short, we send two audio channels to the transmitter; one for left and one for right. But older radios can’t handle two audio channels, only a single audio channel. So the transmitter needs to take the two channels and turn them into one. It does this by literally adding the left and right channels together. This normally works fine, but remember that we’d accidentally multiplied the right channel by -1. So instead of adding, the right channel is being subtracted from the left one. This means that the transmitter was broadcasting the difference between the left and right channels, which sounds absolutely crazy if you tune in to it.

We were unaware of this issue until right after the install, when we turned on the radio to hear the fruits of our labor, only to be met by the most deranged mix of Tom Sawyer we’ve ever heard. It’s funny in hindsight, but at the time we were all worried that we’d need to spend another day fixing the transmitter. It was only after some further testing we were able to narrow the issue down to a single CD player in the FM Studio. This just goes to show how a simple problem can present itself in a way you don’t expect, which happens a lot in the Engineering Staff’s line of work.

That’s why I enjoy being in Engineering, though. We get to do detective work to find out what’s going wrong, and then fix the problem. It’s a ton of fun!"

If you’re interested in joining the engineering staff, you can contact Corey! If you’d like to support what WUVT does, you can check out our wishlist!