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2008 IPMS/USA National Convention - Virginia Beach, VA
Latest Update:  Sunday, August 10

I was fortunate to be able to attend this year's IPMS/USA National Convention being held from Aug 6-9 in Virginia Beach.  Here is my report.

For additional photos see
(http://www.ipmsusa.org and follow the links).

Sat. August 9

The first activity of the morning was to attend the presentations for the 2010 convention.  Portland and Phoenix (my home chapter) made bids.  Then I made another (this time slower) round thru the contest room to look at more of the models that I missed yesterday.  With most of the day in seminars and the evening judging S+SF, I did not see the latest arrivals in the other categories.  Talking to people it became clear that the overall quality of the entries this year is very high.  I won't disagree with that.  I also checked the vendor room and simply talked to a lot of people.  Brian Nicklas (of the DC area) made it down for the day and it was nice to see him.  By late afternoon I was beat so I took a break in the hotel room and changed into my IPMS - Craig Hewitt polo shirt for the banquet (although I sat with the spacers - we were not far from the Phoenix table).

The banquet was fun and I sat with some of the space modelers (Sven, Idacavage, Dom + Lynda and later Troy).  The presentations and electronic slide show of the winning models went off without a hitch and everything went smoothly.  (Unless you consider that the wait staff apparently were told to disappear once the program started.  That meant the dirty dishes sat on the table for the next three hours and most people got no coffee service.)  Aris and Bill did another great job reading the results.  Winners included the "Unamed Starship" as best Space + Sci Fi and Ben Guenther's Juno I rocket as best in Real Space.  Dave Week's Apollo 1 CSM won the Best NASA entry.  After the usual mad rush to the contest room to watch folks pack up, we said some goodbyes, and a few of us went back to Croc's for a post-con drink.  Overall I had a great time and it was nice to spend some face time with people you otherwise only communicate with electronically.
Next year's event will be in Columbus, OH and it was announced that the show will be back in Phoenix in 2010.  Here are some more of my photos.  To look at a photo, click on the link at the right and it will open in a new window.
Sven Knudson and Brian Nicklas send their greetings
Mike M poses with the nicely populated Real Space display table

Dom and Lynda show off their trendy space shirts prior to the banquet

This is a general shot of the banquet and awards ceremony ballroom.  I wanted to show folks what a huge event this is.

Some Contest Results

Tally of entries per category:
600.  Real Space - 23 entries 
605.  Sci Fi & Fantasy from Kits.  Splits:
605a. Star Trek/ Star Wars - 20 entries
605b.  Other - 21 entries
606.  Mecha - 18 entries
610.  Sci Fi & Fantasy, kit bash + scratchbuilt - 19 entries
698.  Out of the Box Space and Sci Fi - 18 entries
(No paper models this year)

There were 2474 total entries in the contest, and about 600 people registered for the convention.  This was the second largest ever in model count behind Atlanta in 2005.  See details here.

Fri. August 8

Friday was a full day of seminars and judging.  We had an afternoon full of space and sci fi seminars and they went very well.  Everyone seemed to have a good time.  Here is the run down:

 10 am - Mat Irvine - Space, as It Should Have Been! 
    A look at what and where we thought we'd be back in the 50s and 60s.  This was more of a cultural history review than a modeling seminar.]  Still, Mat's talk struck home and generated a spirited discussion of what the USA (and other countries) should be doing in space next.  The wild card is likely to be the private sector and whether space tourism and similar commercial endeavors will push the technology and make real exploration affordable.

As a little aside here, this is the first year in ages that I skipped Aris Pappas' "What Judges Look for" seminar.  As I am no longer a head judge, I don't need to personally support this meeting.  That freed me up to actually leave the convention center and get lunch with some of my Phoenix pals.

 1 pm - Mat Irvine - Not Yet Dead - Miniatures vs Computers. 
    Here, Mat gave a short history of the use of scale models in science fiction film and TV) productions.  It was a nice glimpse of his many years of working at the BBC making miniatures for "in camera" special effects shots.  His main point is that computer generated graphics (CGI) will never completely replace physical scale models.
 2 pm - Mike Mackowski - Building Real Satellites
    I followed Mat with a captive audience and gave a photo show on how the Gamma Ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) was constructed.  I worked on this program as an engineer for General Dynamics in Gilbert, Arizona and had the privelege to be very involved in the final assembly, test and launch of this NASA satellite.  I also kept the audience happy by providing door prizes to just about everyone in the room.
 3 pm - Mike M. hosting D. Weeks (Apollo 9 diorama) and R. Schorry (planetary probes)
    For this session Dave Weeks started out with a nice overview of how he built his Apollo 9 recovery diorama.  Last year he talked about his research on the recovery helicopters used in pulling astronauts out of the water after their mission.  This time he talked about the modeling techniques used in the aircraft and (scratch built) Apollo capsule.

Several of us (I think it was Idacavage, Sven, Krista, Troy, Dom and Lynda and myself) went back to Croc's for a nice dinner before judging.  That little bar-restaurant is only a block or so from the convention center and the food is really good.

There was a Judges Meeting at 6 pm and judging got started around 7.  Here, Aris Pappas (chief judge) announced this was his last year in that position as he needs a break.  Judging was tough.  This was the second largest model count in IPMS Nationals history and Space and Sci Fi was no exception.  The quality was excellent as well.  In the areas I judged there were multiple occasions of trying to distinguish between two models of very similar quality.  And often it was an apples and oranges situation where one entry may have had a lot of rework and parts added but the builder got a couple minor things wrong.  It's competitor would be a much simpler model (lower degree of difficulty) but maybe he missed one glue seam.  How do you compare those?  I try not to simply count glitches ("negative judging") but I try to mentally apply the degree of difficulty and maybe also how hard we had to look to find the problems.  There is no simple formula for judging and it was a challenging four hours. 

Finally around 11 pm we finished the Space and Sci Fi division and noticed most of the other major divisions were also working on their "best of" selection.  Later I heard the final judging was done around 2 am.  That's typical, and thanks to Manny Gutsches in his first year as S+SF head judge, doing a fine job in the role I held for 20 years or so.

Mat Irvine giving one of his two talks on Friday
Mike M (far left) handing out door prizes at his Friday talk.  Rob Schorry (front) checks them out.  I think everyone got something.
Rob Schorry's talk on scratch building space probes
All the space and sci fi judges pose for a photo Friday evening.  Or was it early Saturday morning?  We actually finsihed judging the category a little before 11 pm.
The Muroc Models X-38

Thu. August 7

I managed to get to five seminars and the trip to the "Fighter Factory" (warbird museum) today, which made it a good day.  I am also taking photos for the IPMS website (http://www.ipmsusa.org  and follow the links).  I did not get a chance to look at the many models much, but hope to have more time on Saturday.  I also broke down and bought some resin kits (Anigrand kits from Nostagic Plastic) for my McDonnell - St. Louis collection.  Idacavage kicked off our set of Real Space seminars with a very informative talk on tips and tricks for building the 1/200th scale Man In Space set.  The hints were very helpful and the photo illustrations were very well done.  He is in the process of turning this into an article for the IPMS Journal.  The attendance was a little lower than we have had in the past, perhaps only 15 attendees rather than the 30-40 we usually get.  But they did have three concurrent tracks running and some very attractive tours.

Thursday Space Seminars:
 11 am - David Merriman - Effects Miniature Making
 2 pm - Dennis Rodgick - Sci Fi Vehicles, a History
 4 pm - Mike Idacavage - Man in Space in 1/200th scale

I went to the Fighter Factory event, which had a great catered BBQ dinner and a Stearman flying around.  After that we checked out the contest room, where I mostly looked at the Space and Sci Fi and made another photo run for IPMS.  Lots of good stuff and another day to go.  The room closed a 9 pm, which I think is a bit early, but I imagine it must cost a lot to have security hang around much later at a facility like this.

To look at a photo, click on the link at the right and it will open in a new window.

Late Thursday evening - the contest room is starting to fill up.  Reports are the show has over 2500 models so far.
Mike Idacavage starts his presentation on building the AMT Man-in-Space kit.
Lynda Pelly shows off her airplane shirt that she made herself.  This is at the Fighter Factory outing that included a very tasty BBQ and some nicely restored old aircraft.
Dave Weeks, Mike Idacavage, Mike Mackowski, and Manny Gutsche make friends with a Russian spacesuit at the Fighter Factory. 
A nice model of Stardust showed up at the Real Space theme table.
A Salyut 1 space station (NewWare) was entered as out of the box.

James Corley, Manny G, and David W discuss the models in the Real Space area.

Wed. August 6

Got registered and ran some errands for the registration team.  Caught up with Mike Idacavage, Manny Gutsche, Dave Weeks, Gordon Fessenger, and others.  Did not really find anything to buy.  I need to live 500 years to build what I already have.

The SIG table is filling up nicely as is the real space (category 600) table.  I should have some pics of that Thursday.  We got seven o f the space modelers together for dinner tonight.  We had a great time.  Here are some photos.

To look at a photo, click on the link at the right and it will open in a new window.

Main registration area

HobbyLink Japan had some great prices and was an excellent example of how much stuff is available in the vendor room.
The contest room is large and only beginning to fill up.
This is the Real Space Modelers display (SIG) area.  Ben Guenther brought some stuff to get started.
A very nice Friendship 7 dominates the Real Space contest category.
Dinner at Croc's tonight.  L to R:  Sven, Krista, Mike I, Dom Durocher, Lynda Pelley, and Troy Bidwell.

Tue. August 5

I flew to Norfolk via Nashville with Bruce Briggs, a fellow member of the Phoenix chapter ("Craig Hewitt") of IPMS.  We found the Quality Inn across the street and to the side of the new convention center, probably as close to the facility as main hotel (the Doubletree).  It's not fancy but should be fine.  We ran into some other club members and six of us (myself, Bruce, Steve Collins, Jim Clark, Mike Ronnau, and Keenan Chittester) had a nice dinner at a seafood restaurant on the Atlantic Ave. strip in VB.

So far so good, and since the convention does not open until 2 pm tomorrow, I am planning to sleep and maybe take a morning walk on the beach.  Perhaps a museum will keep me busy until later in the afternoon when I will sign up for the show.  I did not register for any tours so tomorrow might be a good day to head out on my own or with some of the other guys.  Bruce is here early to help with the convention registration software (which he developed).

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This page updated Aug. 10, 2008