Niagara Gazette

Features

March 19, 2010

WEB SITE ACCLAIM: Physicist finds his labor of love listed among the top 10 museums for “geeks.”

NIAGARA FALLS — “Geeks” around the world should know about the Niagara Science Museum.

The little museum, tucked away in a technology park at the intersection of Highland and College avenues, has just been named to “The Top Ten Museums for Geeks,” on listverse.com. There is a note with the citation that states: “Geeks love history, science and the pursuit of knowledge.”

The distinction came as a surprise to the man who created the museum.

“It’s something amazing, out of the blue,” smiled Nick Dalacu, a physicist who in 2003 began restoring the deserted red brick structure that once served as the headquarters for Union Carbide’s predecessor, National Carbon.

The Web site list applauds the science museum’s vast array of antique scientific instruments found in reconstructed laboratories, and notes: “Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, all of the instruments are fully functioning so you can see live demonstrations.”

By happy coincidence local “geeks” looking to see what has created such a stir, can visit the museum from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and see just what the list makers were so excited about.

The Saturday event is being held in conjunction with “Obscura Day,” a global celebration created by another Web site called AtlasObscura.

The museum was among 80 or so locations invited to participate in open houses throughout the world of “wondrous and curious places.”

Strangely enough, while the world seems to be paying attention, the museum is having trouble getting noticed in its own backyard.

Local schools seem disinterested in the antique laboratories and rustic science equipment that provided the seeds of today’s super technology, according to Dalacu. The place has not, however, escaped the attention of a handful of local “geeks,” who seem captivated by the opportunities for scientific play.

John Roy, a Lockport native, has been volunteering at the museum several days a week since he was the first person to come to its grand opening last year.

He proudly points to some of the enhancements he’s made to the exhibits, including, most recently, a plastic cover for an display that shows how 6,000 volts can create sparks that could surely be used as a special effect in a monster movie.

Dalacu calls Roy “the best thing to ever happen to the museum,” but there are others, including Rick Gray, who notes his own affection for the place while standing on a ladder to fix the ceiling. “I think it’s something really fantastic,” Gray said of the museum.

Dalacu said that while it may take a while for more people to discover the Niagara Science museum, he and his handful of science lovers will carry on. Its corner of the city is very important to the Romanian physicist who immigrated to this country 30 years ago. He also owns the company next door, Canrom Photovoltaics, where he is months away from production on some unique solar panels he has invented. The panels store the energy of the sun and convert it into electricity. When production begins, he plans to hire 10 employees. Later, if the project goes as he plans, he expects to require 100 employees.

The solar panel production is backed by grants from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and pays the bills, he admitted with a smile, while the museum pays homage to his love for science and research.

On Saturday, the museum will feature about 30 or so “geeks,” who will be performing experiments with the antique equipment. Mayor Paul Dyster is among the dignitaries expected to attend and there will be refreshments served

“We expect ‘geeks,’” said Dalacu, of the Saturday event. In the near future he plans to reach out to more area “geeks,” by encouraging visits from local schools and creating a club for those of all ages who can work in the museum’s machine shop to create projects such as solar cars.

“Kids who want to be ‘geeky,’ we’re going to encourage and support them,” he said. Why shouldn’t they have the chance to enjoy science as much as he does?

“This is my sandbox,” he said of the museum. “This is where we play.”

Contact reporter Michele DeLuca

michele.deluca@niagara-gazette.com

at 282-2311, ext. 2263.

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