THATCamp Prime Recap: Rain, Plastic, and Prizes

by Rebecca Onion Categories: Administrative

At last weekend’s THATCamp Prime, held at George Mason University (a.k.a., the Center for History and New Media, a.k.a. The Mothership), not even Friday’s torrential rain could put a damper on the 100+ participants’ spirits.

We had many session proposals to choose from: 30 potential sessions, for 18 slots. Most people proposed sessions before Friday morning, using our THATCamp site’s blog.

Workshops ran concurrently with sessions, rather than being given on a single workshop-filled day. This worked fairly well for attendees, who could alternate between the two modes.

We took advantage of several new features on our THATCamp website. Most of all, we happily used Participad, now fully integrated into THATCamp sites, to take collaborative notes. Many commented on the awesomeness of having the links to the notepads built into the session pages, so that all of the information lives in the same location. The transition from notetaking with GoogleDocs to this new regime was fairly seamless.

On Friday, I went to the “Working Group for Digital Historians” session, where we discussed the need for an informal association of people interested in doing digital history. Sharon Leon set up a group on the spot, using Commons in a Box; the site currently has 134 active members and 17 subject-specific groups. Join us!

On Saturday, I attended a session called “Imagining THATClass,” convened by two high school history teachers who wanted to talk about their experiences running courses on a project model, using digital tools. As a highlight, the teachers brought two of their former students in to talk about project-based courses from that perspective. The two were enthusiastic about the approach and willing to be detailed and honest about their experience and that of their classmates.

A session that received rave reviews, but that I wasn’t able to attend, was Jeremy Boggs’ 3D Modeling and Printing Workshop. Throughout the weekend, people who were there kept pulling nifty plastic cars, rings, and other tokens out of their pockets to show off their work. Attendees enthused about the thrill of exploring Thingiverse, tinkering with a model, and watching the printer work.

On Saturday, our final event was a Maker Challenge. We gathered in the large auditorium to watch people who had created something during the two days of the THATCamp present their projects. The stakes were high: prizes included an iPad mini, a Samsung Chromebook, and a Kindle Fire. Entrants had previously posted on the blog about their projects, and got up to give a Dork Short-style mini-presentation of their features. The audience voted by clicking “Favorite” on the entries they liked the most.

The big winner was Boone Gorges, for his WordPress plugin that displays items from the Digital Public Library of America that are related to a post’s tags.

There was a lot of good-humored competition, laughter, and general merriment. This was a great way to end a THATCamp, and highly recommended for future gatherings.

Long live THATCamp Prime!

(Twitter archive of THATCamp Prime tweets, courtesy of Aram Zucker-Scharff)

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RCHN Mellon Mellon