Argus Planetarium to receive $100K gift from IMRA America, Inc.

The planetarium will be updated with the new DigiStar 5 operating system. View a demo of the system at

By Tara Cavanaugh

A longtime treasure of the Ann Arbor Public Schools is about to get a major update.

Pioneer High School’s Argus Planetarium will receive a $100,000 gift from IMRA America, Inc.

“The district is very grateful for this generous donation from IMRA,” said AAPS Superintendent Dr. Patricia Green.  “This donation will enable the district to continue to provide the rich science curriculum the planetarium provides to not only AAPS students but to the community.”

In appreciation of the company’s generosity, the planetarium will be renamed the Argus IMRA Planetarium for the next 25 years.

This is the third time IMRA America, Inc. has made a large donation to the Ann Arbor Public Schools. In 2011 it donated $50,000 toward physics equipment, and in 2010 it donated $50,000 for science and math education through the AAPSEF One Million Reasons campaign.

IMRA America, Inc. is an Ann Arbor-based company with global reach, leading the development of ultrafast fiber laser technologies for commercial applications.

IMRA President Takashi Omitsu is pleased to support the Ann Arbor Public Schools. “As a company founded for the purpose of research and development, IMRA America recognizes the value of scientific curiosity,” he said. “We hope that by funding the renovation and ongoing operation of the planetarium, we may help to stimulate this curiosity in the scientists of our future.”

The donation will support the purchase of a new DigiStar 5 operating system, the four computers capable of running the system, and new lighting.

The planetarium was last updated with the DigiStar 3 a decade ago. The ten-year-old computers that run the current system are no longer being manufactured and are often in need of repair. The cove lighting system, based on 25-year-old technology, also malfunctions frequently.

The Argus Planetarium first opened in 1956 with a generous donation from Argus Camera Company, which is also based in Ann Arbor. The company earned its fame by producing the first affordable 35 mm camera in 1936, creating a mass market of amateur photographers.

During World War II, Argus, like many companies, received government contracts and produced optical and radio equipment for the US Armed Forces. By the end of the war, Argus had become the largest private industrial employer in Ann Arbor.

Since the planetarium opened as the first high school planetarium in the country, it’s been a part of AAPS elementary, middle and high school science curriculum. It has hosted Community Rec and Ed astronomy classes and visitors from international educational and scientific organizations.

Planetarium Director Ron Robinson is grateful for IMRA’s support of the historic planetarium. “I am truly glad to be working in a community that values science education, and education in general,” he said. “IMRA over the years has shown great leadership in giving back to Ann Arbor.  This sponsorship will continue to make Ann Arbor a leader in education as well as help preserve the wonderful treasure that is our planetarium.”

The Board of Education will vote on approving the donation Nov. 7.

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