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Todd Aydelotte, a Manhattan native and ultrarunner, was more than winded as he crossed through the threshold of the Shoreham Wardenclyffe property Jan. 10. He was frozen solid from running 74 miles in subfreezing temperatures and whipping winds, and he was visibly exhausted by near-constant running across the length of Long Island over two days.

But once he arrived at the site of famous inventor and scientist Nikola Tesla’s last living laboratory, he still had the strength to embrace his wife and lay his hand on the century-old building’s facade.

“Tesla said energy was everywhere around us — it was all over the Earth, and we, as people, could actually harness that energy,” Aydelotte said to the small crowd gathered to welcome him at the Tesla Science Center. “I started seeing myself capturing that energy.”

‘I started seeing myself capturing that energy.’

— Todd Aydelotte

The Manhattanite is an ultrarunner, a person who commits to a form of long-distance running that goes far beyond something like a marathon. Whereas a typical marathon is 26.2 miles, an ultrarunner can run for 50, 70 or even more than 100 miles. Often these extreme athletes take treks through natural preserves such as the Grand Canyon, but for close to two years Aydelotte has taken a different approach, instead using his passion for history as the driving force for him to take these long-distance treks. 

“If you look at some of the world’s great ultrarunners … one tool they use is they’re mostly trail runners, when they get into it they lose themselves in the beauty all around them,” the runner said. “Being in Manhattan I don’t have that luxury, but I’m super into history. I started going off on these long runs after studying up on history, so it could be in my head, something that could carry me the long miles.”

Those working in the Tesla Science Center, which plans on turning the Shoreham Wardenclyffe site into a science museum and science startup incubator, learned of Aydelotte’s plan around two weeks before the run and were ecstatic to see him arrive.

“We’ve been waiting on you with bated breath,” the center’s board president, Jane Alcorn, said to the newly arrived runner.

Aydelotte’s route started at around 11 a.m. Jan. 9 and took him all over Manhattan, taking breaks in between running to visit and take pictures of sites such as the Waldorf Astoria in Midtown where Tesla lived for many years at the height of the Gilded Age, and the Gerlach Hotel on 27th Street where Tesla once resided and tested his transmission equipment on the roof. 

The runner’s route also took him to Chambers Street in Manhattan, a site made famous when a Western Union lineman John Feeks was electrocuted to death in 1889 while working on the electrical lines above the street. This occurred just as the famous “current wars,” a feud between the well-known Thomas Edison and Tesla over whether Edison’s direct current would propagate better than Tesla’s superior alternating current. Edison would use this event as well as other displays, such as when he publicly executed a living elephant in 1903 with alternating current, as a way to discredit Tesla and show how his form of electrical current was harmful or even dangerous.

Aydelotte’s wife, Tess Ghilaga, a yoga instructor in Manhattan, said her husband is training every single week, running two to three times a week and practicing yoga under her careful attention four to five times a week. She’s helped him through his constant training, and said she enjoys getting to be a part of learning of pieces of history like the Tesla Science Center.

‘People identify with someone who works very hard to achieve a goal without being recognized for it.’

— Jane Alcorn

“Depending on what hurts his body, I’ll help him with knee work, hip work, back core, the changes that happen when you run so far so often,” Ghilaga said. “I grew up in Garden City, so I know the East End, but I didn’t know anything about the science center until he read a book. It’s so cool that it’s being resurrected.”

This is the third, and longest, ultrarun Aydelotte has accomplished. Previous runs have taken him 49 miles from New York City to Long Island looking at the history of Teddy Roosevelt while another 64.5-mile run took him from the city through Connecticut tracing the history of famous American showman P.T .Barnum. While the ultrarunner said he felt accomplished to complete his longest run so far at 74 miles, this race held a raw, emotional tie to his person since he saw something of Tesla in himself, a sort of drive that pushes a person past the point of exhaustion and doubt.

“He was relentless in his work ethic, in his values,’ Aydelotte said. “He was a good man, a great man. There are so many reports of him working day upon day upon day upon day, not giving up on a vision.”

Alcorn could only nod at the notion that Tesla continues to inspire people 76 years after his death Jan. 7, 1943.

“People identify with someone who works very hard to achieve a goal without being recognized for it,” said the board president. “It’s what we try to do here, to put some focus on him and what he tried to do.”

A rendering of the approved plan for a Tesla showroom on Route 347 in Nesconset. Image from Smithtown Planning Department

The Tesla Inc. showroom on Route 347 in Nesconset will offer students a chance to delve into the nuts and bolts of how the luxury electric cars work.

The planned $700,000 renovation to the former Sixth Avenue Electronics shopping center at the corner of Route 347 and Hillside Avenue for a new Tesla dealership will initially work as a showroom, a service center as well as an educational and experimental center in an ongoing partnership with Farmingdale State College, according to Mohamad Zoghi, the acting chair of the automotive technology department at Farmingdale State College.

“We are working with Tesla recruiters,” Zoghi said. “They recruit based on the demand of technicians at their locations. So, once there is availability at Nesconset location, [we will have interns there.]’’

“We are working with Tesla recruiters… They recruit based on the demand of technicians at their locations.”

–Mohamad Zoghi

The showroom would be the eighth Tesla-owned facility to open in New York. Normally, New York State law requires all car manufacturers to sell their vehicles through franchises. However, Tesla struck a deal with the state to permit it to operate up to five of its own dealerships.

There is pending legislation in both the state Senate and Assembly that would allow Tesla to open an additional 15 dealerships within the state as long as five of the new locations are in upstate New York. Both bills are currently stuck in committee.

In the meantime, Tesla will use this space for its continued educational partnership with Farmingdale students that was first announced in August 2017. Based on the needs set by Tesla, students in the two-year and four-year automotive management programs can potentially obtain an internship working on Tesla’s electric vehicles and other products.

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said the renovations will give life to a long blighted area off of Route 347.

“They were given permission to go inside and clean up that building, and now that they have their site plan they can go in and start the interior renovation and the exterior facade renovation,” Wehrheim said. “It’s cleaning up a real blighted section of that area.”

It’s cleaning up a real blighted section of that area.”

– Ed Wehrheim

The plans call for a more than 40,500-square-foot showroom with an attached service center in the renovated footprint of the old electronics store. The exterior lot would be relined to provide parking space for more than 300 cars in Tesla’s inventory as well as spots for potential customer use.

The company behind the Tesla property development 1000 Nesconset LLC had its site plan finally approved at the July 17 Smithtown town board meeting. The company filed for a change of zone application for the property to transition from commercial business and neighborhood business to wholesale industrial in order to accommodate the outdoor storage a car dealership needs. Attorney Vincent Trimarco Sr., who is representing the development company, said that zoning on the property has already been changed and construction is close to beginning.

“It’s imminent now that they’re going to start,” Trimarco said.

Other Tesla-owned locations on Long Island include a display gallery inside Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station and a dealership in East Hampton.

The Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe is located at 5 Randall Road in Shoreham. File photo by Wenhao Ma

Shoreham’s Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe is hosting the Electric Dream Expo Saturday, July 8 — a community event honoring science innovator Nikola Tesla’s 161st birthday, as well as the 100th anniversary of the dismantling of Tesla’s famous wireless transmitting tower. The Electric Dream Expo is comprised of an afternoon Science & Innovation Expo from 2 to 6 p.m. on the site of Tesla’s last existing laboratory in Shoreham, with exhibits, demonstrations, food and entertainment.

There will also be an evening of Tesla entertainment, called Summer Electrified!, from 8 to 10 p.m. at Shoreham-Wading River High School, 250A Route 25A, Shoreham, featuring Tesla-inspired performances.

Technological innovation of the past, present and future is the expo’s theme, and attendees at the daytime Science & Innovation Expo will experience Tesla-themed exhibits and activities for all ages, including a HAM radio presentation, displays by The Museum of Interesting Things and Long Island Radio & TV Historical Society, Tesla coil exhibit, 3-D printer and robotics demos, interactive exhibits of Tesla inventions and a Tesla car display.

Tours and a special presentation of innovation will feature the history of Tesla’s 187-foot wireless transmitter tower, built on the Shoreham site in 1907 and dismantled 100 years ago. The tower’s base remains as a focal point, along with Tesla’s Wardenclyffe Laboratory, built from 1901 to 1905 by renowned architect Stanford White, and now being renovated into an immersive science and education center.

The Summer Electrified! an evening of Tesla entertainment, features ArcAttack!, a musical light show using Tesla coil technology, as well as a unique lineup of performances and readings focused on Tesla’s life and legacies.

Admission to the Science & Innovation Expo is $15 for ages 13 and over, $5 for ages 5 to 12 and free for children under 5. Tickets for the Summer Electrified! performances are $25 per person 13 and over, $12 for ages 5 to 12 and free for children under 5. Admission to both events is $35 for 13 and over, $15 for ages 5 to 12 and free for children under 5. A special price of $25 per car covers admission to the daytime Science Innovation Expo for all passengers, and is limited to the first 50 car tickets purchased. Tickets can be purchased at www.teslasciencecenter.org.

By Wenhao Ma

The Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe celebrated Nikola Tesla’s 160th birthday Sunday outside his only remaining laboratory in Shoreham. Hundreds of people joined the celebration to honor the inventor of alternating current electricity and neon lighting.

The center has been holding Tesla’s birthday celebrations since 2013, when it completed its purchasing of the lab. Jane Alcorn, the president of the board of directors, said she believed that it’s important for people to remember Tesla.

“He has contributed so much to modern society,” she said. “Every time you turn on an electrical light or any kind of electrical appliance, it’s because Nikolas Tesla developed the alternating current system that we use today.”

The center also connected online with another Tesla birthday celebration that was taking place in Serbia, at the same time, and the parties greeted one other.

Alcorn and other board members are looking to build a museum on the site that would be dedicated to inventions and new technologies.

According to its website, the museum would complement the educational efforts of the schools within this region, as well as the community outreach activities of other prominent science institutions.

“He’s a visionary,” Alcorn said. “His ideas and what he saw coming in the future and the way he inspires people today to be visionary are all testaments to how important he is.”

Money will fund the purchase of a cataloging program

Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe’s new grant will help the center document important information and provide a temperature controlled-storage unit to house artifacts. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe rang in the new year with another grant.

On Jan. 5, the center announced that it received a grant from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation. The news comes just two days before the anniversary of Nikola Tesla’s death, which was on Jan. 7, 1943.

The money from the grant will fund the purchase of a cataloging program and storage unit. While the new unit allows the center to store artifacts and collections, the program, PastPerfect, will help the center record and document those artifacts and collections.

The organization applied for the $3,800 grant in October and was approved the following month. Although it received the grant in December, the organization was unable to buy the program at the time. But the news that they received the full $3,800 grant was a surprise.

The Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation supports and aims to preserve New York State history, particularly in Suffolk County. The foundation is known for meeting organizations halfway on an approved grant.

“We support [the organizations],” said Kathryn Curran, president of the foundation. “But they also need to find ways to be sustainable.”

Organizations applying for a grant must be able to fund half the money it requests on the application. Curran said Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe received the full grant they applied for because the organization wasn’t requesting a significant amount of money and because, when it comes to fundraising, Curran said, the center is one of the best. Although Tesla Science Center applied for the grant in hopes of purchasing the program, Treasurer Mary Daum said the program hasn’t been installed yet, but will be soon.

In 2012, the center raised $1.37 million dollars in one month from a crowdfunding campaign. Daum said this was the organization’s first real fundraising campaign. The money they raised helped purchase the Tesla Science Center property at the time. As Nikola Tesla’s last and only existing laboratory, Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe is world-renowned, leaving them with thousands of followers. Some followers are active donors, while others like to keep up with the center’s newsletter.

Although the organization didn’t use crowdfunding to help raise money for its last fundraiser, they raised around $17,000 during its six-week campaign.

“We’ve done so much work on construction or improving the grounds, and that’s not the kind of thing the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation supports,” Daum said. “But what they do support is preserving Long Island’s historic legacy.”

While it was the first time the center applied for a grant from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, it wasn’t the first time the foundation gave an organization the full grant it applied for. The foundation wants to know that organizations like the center at Wardenclyffe are meeting their fundraising goals.

It will be a few years before the center achieves its main goal of establishing a science center and museum, but Jane Alcorn, president of Tesla Science Center, said it recently purchased a collection of historic electrical equipment that are similar to tools Tesla may have used during his lifetime and other artifacts the center can catalog.

“We feel very fortunate that the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation provided funding for us to start our collection on the right foot,” Alcorn said. “We’re grateful to their foresight in providing grants to us and local institutions.”

The Tesla Science Center laboratory site in Shoreham is blocked off while it’s under redevelopment. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Science doesn’t come cheap.

So it was a pleasant surprise for the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe when the New York State Regional Economic Development Councils announced the center will receive two grants totaling $700,000. While the center has yet to receive the grants, the NYSREDC’s 2015 awards notice for Long Island is proof the grants are forthcoming. The state agency did not reply to messages prior to publication.

The center is slated to receive $200,000 through the Market New York grant program, which tackles public relations and increasing tourism, among other responsibilities. The remaining $500,000 will go toward the center’s Wardenclyffe site. The center is currently redeveloping this property and plans to establish the Nikola Tesla Museum and Science Center. The site is the last remaining laboratory of Tesla, a prominent inventor in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

According to Tesla Science Center President Jane Alcorn, the center applied for the grants this past July. Alcorn added applying for the grants is a competitive process as there are many applicants for these grants.

“It’s very exciting to have funds to promote our project and to work on the redevelopment of Wardenclyffe,” Alcorn said in an email.

Initially, the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe was known as Friends of Science East Inc. While its name changed, the not-for-profit mission to develop Tesla’s only existing laboratory site into a science center and museum remained the same.

In 2009, when Brookhaven Town Superintendent of Highways Dan Losquadro was a Suffolk County legislator and former state Assemblyman Marc Alessi was still in office, the two announced plans to acquire the 16-acre property. Former town supervisor, Mark Lesko, and state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) were also part of this effort to acquire and preserve the property on behalf of the state and town, according to an article on the Tesla website.

Alessi emphasized its importance as the last Tesla lab in the world. He added that the site was culturally and historically significant as a result.

“We need to ensure that it is protected so that future generations can continue to enjoy this landmark,” Alessi said in the article.

Regardless of these officials’ plans, Friends of Science East purchased the property in 2013. The organization also hoped to preserve the site and make improvements.

Tesla built his facility in Shoreham in 1901-03. It was a small brick building no bigger than a schoolhouse. Yet behind the building was a 187-foot tower that Tesla intended to be a wireless power transmission station, which Tesla claimed would produce wireless electricity.

Now years later, the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe is looking forward to a brighter future for the site, and hopes to be able to do even more.

“We hope to apply for additional grants in the future [that] will assist in the continuation of progress toward the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe opening day,” Alcorn said.

The Wardenclyffe site in Shoreham. File photo by Erika Karp

“A man sees in the world what he carries in his heart,” reads one of many quotes from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s “Faust” contained in “Tower to the People.” If this is so, Tesla’s heart must have been ablaze with electrical impulses and potential for change.

By Talia Amorosano

On Friday, people of all ages congregated at Shoreham-Wading River High School to celebrate a very special occasion: Nikola Tesla’s 159th birthday.

They came bearing monetary gifts in the form of ticket purchases to see filmmaker Joseph Sikorski’s “Tower to the People” Long Island premiere at the school, which is located a little more than a mile and a half away from Tesla’s Wardenclyffe laboratory. The proceeds from the event will be used to fund the continued restoration of the site — Tesla’s last.

Using bold, mixed media visuals, color saturated re-enactments and original photographs from the early 1900s, the film documents the history of Tesla’s work at Wardenclyffe, a former potato farm, where the inventor planned to complete what he anticipated would be his greatest invention and contribution to mankind — a 187-foot-tall tower capable of transmitting free wireless energy to the entire world.

“A man sees in the world what he carries in his heart,” reads one of many quotes from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s “Faust” contained in “Tower to the People.” If this is so, Tesla’s heart must have been ablaze with electrical impulses and potential for change. Among the literal highlights of Tesla’s career documented in the film are his successful attempt to wirelessly illuminate incandescent light bulbs from three miles away, creation of the Tesla coil and introduction of alternate current electricity, reception of transmissions from stars and ability to produce artificial lightning that author and Tesla scholar Jack Hitt described as being “so powerful that the thunder of it was heard miles away.”

"Tower to the People" filmmaker Joseph Sikorski speaks at Shoreham-Wading River High School on Friday, July 9. Photo by Talia Amorosano
“Tower to the People” filmmaker Joseph Sikorski speaks at Shoreham-Wading River High School on Friday, July 9. Photo by Talia Amorosano

Unfortunately for Tesla, his brilliant moments are dimmed by disappointment during his later life. The film portrayed Tesla’s persistence when, among other negative events, former funder J.P. Morgan, refused to pay for the completion of the tower and even dissuaded other potential investors from financing him. After writing pleading letters and attempting to come up with the money himself, in an emotion-wrought scene, Tesla’s Wardenclyffe tower is destroyed by dynamite explosion, as ordered by the U.S. government.

However, “Tower to the People” does end on an uplifting note with the story of Wardenclyffe’s salvation through Internet crowd-funding; explorations of the modern-day property that is now owned by the nonprofit group, Tesla Science Center; and volunteer efforts to clean up Tesla’s run-down laboratory and turn it into a science center.

“As a kid, my parents could never get me to do yard work, but if you ask me to mow Tesla’s lawn, how awesome is that?” said a volunteer on the cleanup crew in the film.

Throughout the event, the crowd was clearly electrified, erupting into applause several times during key moments of the film, and afterwards honoring Sikorski’s homage to Tesla and Wardenclyffe with a standing ovation.

Most of the audience also stayed for a question and answer session with Sikorski and Jane Alcorn, president of the Tesla Science Center, during which Sikorski expressed his belief that there are tunnels under Wardenclyffe and Alcorn revealed hopes to potentially excavate these tunnels after the primary grounds-cleaning goals are achieved, “as time and money permits.”

Finally, a special guest and distant relative of Tesla, Dusan Stojanovic, of True Global Ventures, took the podium to donate $33,000 to the Wardenclyffe project effort. He also gave money to three young inventors whose innovations were inspired by Tesla; most notably, giving $15,000 to a young man involved with creating clothing with his invention, the Electroloom, a 3-D fabric printer.

Alcorn hopes the completed science center will be open to the public in a few years, and in the meantime, plans to continue fundraising efforts until the property is fully restored.

If you are interested in donating to the science center, getting involved with grounds cleanup, or learning more about the Wardenclyffe property, check out www.teslasciencecenter.org.

July 10 screening and Q&A will take place at SWR High School

Tesla Science Center President Jane Alcorn, left, and ‘Tower to the People’ director Joseph Sikorski, right, at the Wardenclyffe site after the center purchased the property in 2013. File photo by Erika Karp

By Talia Amorosano

“Can You Believe Most Americans STILL Have Never Heard of Nikola Tesla?!?!” reads the subheading on the Indiegogo campaign Web page dedicated to increasing public awareness of the often overlooked inventor, not to mention raising funds for the restoration of Wardenclyffe, his last surviving laboratory in Shoreham.

Film director Joseph Sikorski said he first learned about Tesla in a bookstore.

“I was shocked that I had gone through the whole educational system without hearing about him,” he said. “He sacrificed so much for humanity. He needed to be vindicated.”

For Sikorski, this vindication came in the form of a film, which is set to premiere on Long Island at Shoreham-Wading River High School this Friday, July 10, at 7 p.m.

“Hopefully, by bringing attention to who he was and dispelling the myths, he’ll have his credit restored,” Sikorski said, regarding the effect he hopes his documentary, “Tower to the People,” will have on viewers.

Thus far, Sikorski has been pleasantly surprised by the reaction his film has received after its first three screenings in New York City, Toronto and Belgrade.

He described the response as “overwhelming,” noting that each venue had “standing room only,” and “people have been crying.”

He said the Long Island premiere would be particularly special, “because it’s happening just a few minutes from where the tower was” and “because all the benefits from the screening will be given to the Tesla Science Center.”

According the Indiegogo Web page, “Tower to the People” is about the past, present, and future of Nikola Tesla’s Wardenclyffe lab, a site from which the genius inventor dreamed of sending free wireless energy to the entire earth.”

It features interviews with celebrity illusionist, Penn Jillette, of Penn & Teller; internet cartoonist, Matthew Inman, of The Oatmeal, who helped launch an online campaign to save the Shoreham site in 2012; award-winning author, Jack Hitt; and Tesla’s closest living relative, William Terbo.

The Tesla Science Center, the nonprofit group that now owns and maintains the site, raised nearly $1.4 million thanks to Inman’s viral campaign and purchased the property in 2013. Sikorski donated $33,000 to Inman’s “Let’s Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum” initiative.

Even the most knowledgeable Tesla fan is sure to learn something new, as the film provides access to rare photographs and documents the first ever ground-penetrating radar investigation into the tunnels under Wardenclyffe.

Sikorski said he hopes the film will motivate viewers to contribute to the effort to restore the Wardenclyffe property.

According to Jane Alcorn, president of the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, there are still hazardous conditions inside the buildings at this point. But with a $1 million commitment from Elon Musk, inventor, engineer, and CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, to partially fund lab restoration plus funds raised through the Bricks for Nik program, completion within the “next several years” seems promising.

Alcorn expressed hope that the space will eventually encompass a museum, learning center, and maker lab, in which local inventors could learn how to use laboratory equipment to make their visions a reality.

“We would like to support inventors by providing some space for work like that, particularly if it relates to Tesla,” she said.

Sikorski and Alcorn believe that Tesla’s research is still relevant today.

“His ball lightning studies couldn’t be replicated,” Sikorski said. “Because of the way he’s been marginalized, they’ve shunned him and put his research aside.”

Alcorn agreed. “Because he was quite a bit ahead of his time, people looked at him as a bit of a crackpot,” she said. “But much of what he was talking about was very true. … What we’re finding is that a lot of what he was thinking about, including wireless transmission of energy, is a hot topic now. … He’s not taught about in our schools and he deserves to be acknowledged.”

Tickets for the July 10 screening are available at www.Eventbrite.com. Tickets at the door are $12. Seating is limited.