Re-Launch Project SPARC
On Monday, 23 December 2013, members of the Northeast High School Class of 1977 learned that the Philadelphia School District, facing severe budget challenges, cut the funding for Project SPARC and many other after-school programs. Project SPARC, which stands for Space Research Center (formerly Space Research Capsule) was conceived in 1962 by Robert A. G. Montgomery Jr., who was then a physics teacher at Northeast High School, to teach high school students about space exploration.
As word circulated that SPARC was being cancelled, many of my classmates expressed great sadness and regret that such an impactful student program was coming to an end. Since its inception, several thousand students have been involved in launching space missions to orbit, to the International Space Station, to the moon and to Mars. Everything from the design and construction of the spacecraft, to the flight planning and monitoring of the missions was done by students. The SPARC team students needed to develop skills in engineering, medicine, physics, astronomy, safety, teamwork, logistics and planning to carry out the missions. And many of the students, me included, were inspired to pursue careers in engineering, science or medicine.
Nothing can replace the impact of hands-on programs like Project SPARC. Coupled with reports that US students are lagging behind other countries in science and math achievement, the Class of 1977 sees this cancellation as a great tragedy. So we are very motivated to get the funding to restore SPARC.
That is why we have started this fundraising effort and we are asking for your help in re-launching SPARC. Our goal is to raise $5000 over the next month so we can get the program restored for at least the next year. We know this is only a short-term solution, but your generous contribution in support of these talented students will provide the time to explore long-term funding options. So if you're a Northeast High School alumnus, a friend or family member of a graduate or just someone interested in supporting an amazing student based science program, please make whatever donation you can afford. Please also spread the word to help with this important effort.
On behalf of the Class of 1977 and all former and current SPARC members, I thank you in advance for your support. I'll keep you updated on the results of the campaign and the status of Project SPARC.
Per Aspera Ad Astra (Through Hardships to the Stars)
Northeast High School Class of 1977
SPARC Astronaut and Flight 27 Mission Engineer
Please check out the following links to learn more about Project SPARC:
The most recent SPARC Mission
Space Shuttle Astronaut and STS 135 Commander Chris Ferguson's message to SPARC
News clip from a previous SPARC Mission
Newspaper article from a previous SPARC Mission
Posted by Burton Dicht
The start of another SPARC year is just about a month away. Because of your commitment and generosity, we’ve ensured that SPARC can operate fully this coming academic term, providing the students with opportunities to enjoy and learn from their experiences.
The NEHS Project SPARC Boosters officially became a chartered association operating under the NEHS Alumni Foundation on 1 July. We are planning a number of activities for the coming year, including a fundraising campaign and a fundraising event. We also got a great idea to hold a SPARC Alumni reunion. So look for more information about these activities in future announcements. Remember, our objective is to establish a sustained pool of funds to keep SPARC operating for many years to come.
In preparation for these activities I’m pleased to announce the launch of our new Facebook Page and the Booster website. We are going to phase out the Mission: Save SPARC Facebook page. It has served us well, but we needed a new page to reflect the formation of the SPARC Boosters. The new page is: NEHS Project SPARC Boosters. So please, when you’re on Facebook, go to the page and “Like it.” Also please add your comments, photos and stories.
The website has been under development and review for the last two months. We are very excited that we will now have a web presence and also be able to accept donations and inquiries. On the page you will find background on the Boosters, Project SPARC and information on how to make donations and get involved. We’ve also included a reference to recent articles and news reports about SPARC. Under development, but not yet active, is an archive for SPARC history and photographs.
The link for the site is: http://www.nehssparcboosters.org
So bookmark it now.
Both the Facebook page and the website are works-in-progress. So we welcome your comments and suggestions for improvement. One area that you can help with is testimonials. The site currently has several testimonials from donors and alumni. We want to keep the site fresh by continually rotating new testimonials. So, if you would like to have your testimonial posted on the site, just send us a message.
We do intend to post frequent updates on the fundraising effort, the impact of the donations and reports on SPARC activities in both places.
For now enjoy and we look forward to your continued involvement in securing SPARC’s future.
Posted by Burton Dicht
I wanted to share some recent articles from the Northeast Times about the last SPARC Mission:
On a special note, former astronaut and Friend of SPARC Chris Ferguson visited NEHS yesterday. He had a chance to tour the SPARC facility and to see the upgrades made possible from the many donations we received. He also had a chance to speak to the SPARC students. (See photos)
The SPARC Boosters just held a meeting to start the planning for creating a fundraising program. In order to carry out this effort the Boosters created several standing committees and our goal is to have them operating by the end of July.
Here’s your opportunity to put your skills and passion to work in support of the SPARC Boosters. We’re seeking volunteers to serve on these committees and to contribute to the effort to sustain SPARC for the long-term. Below is a list of the committees and their functions.
If you are interested in finding out more information, please send me a message. You will find the experience very rewarding.
Events Committee - Support the planning and organizing of fundraising events and other activities
Annual Giving - Support the development and maintenance of an annual giving program
Corporate/Foundation Relations - Establish and maintain relationships with corporate and foundation sponsors
Publicity and Marketing - Develop and maintain publicity and marketing materials including the website, social media, newsletter and e-mail updates
Awards and Scholarships - Develop and oversee awards and scholarships for SPARC students
Finally, our website is now in development and we’ll be sure to keep you posted on the launch date. And we’ll soon be transiting the Mission: Save SPARC Facebook page to the NEHS SPARC Boosters page so check back soon.
Burt Dicht, Director
NEHS Project SPARC Boosters
Posted by Burton Dicht
SPARC held its final flight of the year on Thursday and Friday. The objective of the mission was to establish a permanent colony on the moon. Coupled with the flight was an open house for alumni, donors, parents and other friends.
Below are two links for the press coverage of the flight.
It was a really exciting event and those of us attending had an opportunity to meet with many of the students, including the astronauts. A number of SPARC alumni were there and it was great to see old friends. A real highlight of course was seeing Robert Montgomery Jr., SPARC’s founder.
We had a chance to speak with him and express our thanks and appreciation for his dedication as a teacher and for the impact he had on so many students. Even the current students were excited about the opportunity to meet Mr. Montgomery.
I would like to extend my thanks and congratulations to all of the current SPARC students, to Mr. Connelly, the SPARC Director and to Mr. Frank, the Magnet School Director, for hosting such a fine event. And best wishes to all of the SPARC seniors for success in college and all of their future endeavors. We expect you back as members of the Boosters.
Finally, a special thank you to all of the donors. When we started this effort back in December there was no guarantee this flight would take place. Your generosity made it all possible! Now SPARC is secure for the next academic year and the NEHS Project SPARC Boosters is now in place to begin the plans for the long-term sustainability of the program.
The date for the next Booster meeting is not yet confirmed. It is tentatively scheduled for the week of June 2. I will keep you posted. The website is also under development and we hope to have that operational before the end of June.
Please let me know if you would like to get involved with the Boosters or if you have any questions.
Posted by Burton Dicht
The final mission of the year was successfully launched this morning. I'll provide a more detailed recap of the mission in another post.
But also occurring today is the open house. We have a number of alumni attending. The open house is from 3 to 5:30 PM. If you didn't RSVP that's ok. If you're in the area just stop. You can enter through the SPARC wing.
As an added incentive for SPARC alumni, Mr. Montgomery is stopping by.
We hope you can make it.
Glenn, you asked what became of our fearless leader, Robt A. G. Montgomery. The last I heard, he was teaching at a small college somewhere south of Pittsburgh. Sadly, his wife passed away a few years ago. He wasn't much older than we were, so I hope he is around for a while!
This question may have a difficult answer, but what happened to Mr. Montgomery?
I will donate, but I'd like to suggest that you go "Old Scholl" with this and host a "Beef and Beer", like we did in the old days. Call it a "Beef and Beer Blastoff". Good luck!