NEHS plans booster club to keep SPARC in flight

Time to re­build: Stu­dents at North­east High School help cleanup and re­build SPARC’s mis­sion con­trol. MARIA POUCH­NIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

Plans to es­tab­lish a boost­er club to keep North­east High’s dec­ades-old after-school sci­ence and space pro­gram go­ing are jelling, ac­cord­ing to a 1977 alum.

The Space Re­search Cen­ter in North­east’s Med­ic­al, En­gin­eer­ing and Aerospace Mag­net School, fam­ous for its sim­u­lated space flights, was cut this year along with oth­er non­s­ports activ­it­ies, but an on­line fund drive pulled in enough dol­lars to keep SPARC go­ing — for now.

The chal­lenge, said former SPARC as­tro­naut and 1977 grad Bur­ton Di­cht, is to keep money flow­ing, so stu­dents cur­rently in­volved with SPARC, SPARC alums, oth­er NEHS grads, mem­bers of the high school alumni as­so­ci­ation’s found­a­tion and school ad­min­is­trat­ors have been meet­ing to set up a boost­ers club.

And, Di­cht said in a March 21 phone in­ter­view, things are just about ready to roll.

“We’re hop­ing for a Ju­ly 1 star­tup,” he said.

On March 18, Di­cht said, most of how the North­east High School SPARC boost­ers will be or­gan­ized was worked out. Just some fin­ish­ing touches are ne­ces­sary on how board mem­bers are se­lec­ted and how money will be man­aged and re­por­ted. Di­cht said those de­tails should be presen­ted at an April 16 meet­ing at the high school.

Di­cht said the boost­ers also want to launch a web­site to keep every­one — es­pe­cially donors — up to date on SPARC activ­it­ies. 

Since the 1960s, stu­dents have been run­ning sim­u­lated spring mis­sions to out­er space. They get ad­vice from teach­ers, but it’s the stu­dents who run SPARC. The kids have a mock-up of a space shuttle, a mis­sion con­trol room and a real Apollo space cap­sule. They’ve gone, vir­tu­ally speak­ing, to the moon, Mars and the In­ter­na­tion­al Space Sta­tion. When it was an­nounced SPARC’s fund­ing would be cut this year, it looked like this year’s mis­sion, usu­ally in late April, would be scrubbed. 

Early this year, Di­cht star­ted the on­line fun­drais­ing drive on Face­book that gen­er­ated more than $12,000 as of last month. An­oth­er $5,200 ear­marked for SPARC sub­sequently came in­to North­east’s alumni as­so­ci­ation. That was enough for this year, Di­cht said.

An­oth­er SPARC alum, Col­or­ado busi­ness­man Gary Rosen­z­weig, donated eight new PCs, video gear and a large screen to the pro­gram. Di­cht said that equip­ment cur­rently is be­ing in­stalled in the SPARC con­trol room.  

Money still is be­ing col­lec­ted to keep the pro­gram go­ing. Di­cht said web fun­drais­ing is con­tinu­ing at www.go­ Checks, pay­able to the “NEHS Alumni As­so­ci­ation Found­a­tion,” can be sent to:

Joan Schei­deck­er

NEHS Alumni As­so­ci­ation

1601 Cottman Ave.

Phil­adelphia, PA 19111

Con­trib­ut­ors should write “Pro­ject SPARC Fund” in their checks’ memo fields. ••

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