Niagara Gazette

June 2, 2011

Local museum owner trying to turn kids on to science

By Michele Deluca
Niagara Gazette

NIAGARA FALLS — A recent school day was the day that Nick Dalacu had been working toward for the past 10 years.

His beloved science museum was filled with sixth-graders, watching experiments about radio waves and vacuums. The students were especially enthused about the microscopes, where they could look at tiny little bugs which volunteer Lynne Daniels had found outside among the dandelions.

The sixth-graders behaved as sixth-graders typically do on a field trip, chatty and excited. But, the message that Dalacu has been hoping to impart seemed to break through.

Almost every day, the physicist has been working diligently with a small band of volunteers to make his Niagara Science Museum at 3625 Highland Ave. a showplace for some of the greatest scientific advancements of our time.

Driven like a man on a mission, he has spent his energy and money to bring science to life so young people will appreciate the miracles that occur in laboratories.

Unfortunately, business at the non-profit site has not been that good, despite a pretty impressive collection of paraphernalia. Dalacu’s having trouble getting noticed by the community and especially, local schools.

But, one day, a science teacher from Maple Elementary School walked into the two-story red-brick building and found Dalacu there, waiting for visitors.

Tom Sauvageau arranged for two classes from his school to visit the museum. The 54 students walked over in three teams. They were admitted for free and even received take home gifts.

“It fits perfectly into our curriculum,” Sauvageau said as he watched his students observe experiments in light, sound and motion.

“They get to see lasers first hand and manipulate electricity,” he said. “What we’re hoping is to get kids coming back. That’s really our hope. That it will turn kids on to science.”

Asked what he might tell his fellow teachers about the place, Sauvageau said: “Get here as soon as you can. Don’t wait.”

Recently the Niagara Science Museum received a provisional charter from New York State University. This allows Dalacu to apply for grants and begin fund raising.

He still has big dreams for the place. Next door to the museum is his solar company, Canrom Photovoltaics, for which he hopes to obtain a second charter to create a small research and technical institute.

Dalacu said he sure could use some help. He’s looking for volunteers to get kids interested in science. He’s also wishing more parents and teachers would stop by the museum with their children. In the meantime, he’s “selling” science, one child at a time.

As the students departed, Dalacu said, “It’s very important for me that the kids, at least some of them, take home an exuberance about science.”

Some of them, apparently, did.

After Dexter Griffin, 12, watched Daniels demonstrate an old fashioned typewriter — an ancestor, she said, of the texting keys on a cell phone — he expressed surprise that the museum even existed.

“I didn’t know there was a science museum here until my teacher told me,” he said. “I want to come back and show my mom this cool stuff.”