You may have come across the name “Plexus” around the GLAARG website and GLAARG Discord Server as we have been preparing the formal announcement and testing. We are now ready to formally introduce you to Plexus, located at

Why Plexus?

The word “plexus” means an interwoven combination of parts or elements in a structure or system. Operating a VEC has various roles and responsibilities from regular VEs to the co-chairs of the VEC that include tasks from accreditation through session upload to the FCC. Plexus was developed from the need to centralize and streamline the processes from a VEC perspective.

Before Plexus there were a variety of different ways to track things like Volunteer Examiners, Session Managers, Session Submissions, Session progress, Applicant progress, VE Badges, and more. While this all worked okay and was built in a time of need, it was difficult to know where to look for what data, and the data was organized in a way that made changing policies and procedures complicated. We worked hard to try to ensure that only cleaned up data was being imported into Plexus.

How was Plexus created?

Plexus is a Volunteer Examiner Tool written to assist GLAARG processes using current web technology and frameworks in a way that allows us to integrate all the different aspects of managing a VEC into a single tool and location. This allows for more efficient and effective time management for all levels of volunteers. Plexusdata sources include data from the ULS from their publicly available daily and weekly files (typically a day behind) as well as public applicant data graciously provided by ExamTools ULS API which allows us to close the gap of the 24 hour weekly and daily ULS files delays.

Integrating the ULS publicly available data directly into Plexus changes the way we work with not only volunteer examiners but also the ability to track sessions and applicants through the entire FCC process. Plexus uses FCC ULS’ data for First, Middle, Last, and Suffix for Full names, license class, and callsigns.

Plexus is still in the very early stages of development of what we have road mapped out. However, we are excited about the tools already in place.

How has Plexus improved the New VE process?

One of the first steps is the accreditation of new volunteer examiners to GLAARG.

With Plexus, a person fills out the form at which has replaced the VE application Google form. As the application is completed, Plexus uses the VE-provided data to verify against the FCC ULS Data. Once submitted, the Accreditation team is notified of a new volunteer examiner application. The application data is reviewed for completeness and any outstanding flags. If the application is acceptable, they are approved and Plexus automatically generates the certificate and emails the new volunteer examiner and any sponsor that may be listed. This is an additional improvement over the introduction of the Google VE application form last spring. These improvements have reduced the time taken to process applications, reduced errors by not reading handwritten forms.

How has Plexus improved informational updates?

Directly from the ULS

When an examiner upgrades their license class from “General” or “Advanced” to “Amateur Extra”, Plexus automatically updates their record and generates their revised certificate and congratulatory email. Plexus also will generate revised certificates and emails for systematic callsign updates or vanity callsigns.

Typically these updates will be issued the following day of the ULS posting due to the timing of the ULS daily and weekly files. There is no longer a need for a volunteer examiner to notify the Accreditation team of any of these updates or upgrades.

What about other informational data?

If a volunteer examiner has a change of address, grid square, phone number, email address, and even learns an additional language the volunteer examiner can change all of these in Plexus by updating their profile.  They can also change their Preferred name which is the name used in place of their legal first name such as in Badges or some session spreadsheets.

What about new tools for Session Managers?

Session managers have access to additional tools. These tools and information are what makes Plexus such a valuable tool for session management. Plexus “currently” can work with only submitted sessions through the portal. Once submitted, a Session Manager can watch your applicants progress through the VEC to FCC process. This is very helpful for tracking your sessions and applicants to ensure that things like BQQ issues, and missed FCC payments can be caught so you can intervene to help the applicant before their application times out with the FCC.

If you see “ET ULS Scraped” as a status for your applicants, that means the data is sourced from ExamTools’ ULS API to shorten the time from the normal 24-hour delay from the FCC. This only applies to ExamTools applicants.

What are the next steps?

One of the most exciting future features is the additional integration of applicant and session data from ExamTools directly into Plexus. We are working with Richard from ExamTools to create the access from ExamTools to Plexus for session and applicant data from the time the session is created and scheduled through the submission to Plexus. Once this is in place, we will be able to manage sessions and applicants with a higher level of efficiency for applicants and VEs. This will be the foundation for a lot more exciting opportunities in Plexus.

Future Expense Report Improvements & Universal Waiver

Pre-session data will allow for expense forms to be generated within Plexus by identifying if applicants are paid or waived, and any expenses covered under the current form. In the future, we will have a universal waiver form replacing the individual session manager’s various forms. The waiver form is already in testing with a few session managers. This is not available to all Session Managers at this time as it is not easily tied to applicant data and sessions currently.

The universal waiver form automatically adjusts the expiration date based on the type of waiver. This is a benefit to the applicant to not have to fill out additional waiver forms if they test with various GLAARG teams for their different license upgrades.

Plexus will automatically match applicants with completed waivers. Session Managers can view this within the session view. This will simplify the expense reporting for both the Session Manager and GLAARG Treasurer.

We have exciting new features planned on top of the already great stuff that Plexus does for you today.  A large portion of those plans rest on the integration planned with ExamTools.  Please do not bother Richard.  He is very busy like the rest of us.  He will get us these things to work with when he has time, but he assured us that it is a priority for him.

What if I need help or found a bug?

GLAARG has a new ticketing system to report issues with the GLAARG Website and Plexus If you have any issues, please use so that we can track the progress.  It is easy to send a DM in Discord, but those issues tend to fall through the cracks and get forgotten.  Using the ticketing system ensures that they do not get lost, and we can track them from start to finish.  So please use the ticketing system when possible.  You can also simply email and that will open a ticket as well.

There is a dedicated Plexus discord server for questions about Plexus, so we do not clog up the GLAARG discord server.  Feel free to join that discord server here: Discord but again for issues please use the ticketing system mentioned above.

For additional documentation on Plexus please click here.

Deeper Dive into the ULS Imports:

The FCC does not make any of this easy.  The FCC no longer has any APIs to help with checking applications or licenses.  The data we get out of the daily and weekly files is dirty and messy. I know that is a weird way to describe it from a data standpoint, but I don’t know how else to describe it really.  It takes a lot of massaging and some complicated processes to properly and cleanly import the data for Plexus to use.

We have made the FCC data available to all volunteer examiners in Plexus.  What you need to understand is there are roughly 20 million records between applications, licenses, history and vanity callsign data from the FCC that we import.  Doing database searches on this much data is normally time consuming.  We are trying different ways to search the data to make the time shorter.  One way is to use a tool called Meilisearch.  While this tool is great for searching millions of records it does come with some drawbacks.  The need for Meilisearch has to do with the way MySQL searches work with indexes.  The reason is technical and if you want to know why feel free to reach out to me and we can discuss it.

Like with QRZ and other websites that provide FCC data to the public our data from the FCC is also 24 hours behind.  This is just because of the way the FCC processes its weekly and daily files.  There is little we can do about that delay unfortunately but Richard with ExamTools has graciously given access to an API he has set up to check applicant data from the FCC.  Without going into detail, he has processes in place to get the data from the FCC.  It is not pretty I am sure and is most likely a very painful process for Richard to keep working properly with all the issues the FCC website is known for, but he is doing it already, so we do not have too.  I am very appreciative of that.  We could do the same thing, but it would put an even bigger strain on the FCC website.   

Thank you,

Robert Mann, KI6O, GLAARG Webmaster
Plexus Programmer & Team Leader