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Construction Set To Start On Long Island's Tesla Science Center

SHOREHAM, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Construction is about to get underway on the much-awaited Tesla Science Center on Long Island.

As CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported, the center is named for the genius inventor who helped bring the world into the modern age -- right out of his laboratory in Shoreham.

Just about anyone can tell you who invented the light bulb. But history kicked Thomas Edison's rival, Nikola Tesla, to the curb.

"Never heard of him," one person told Gusoff.

"He invented a lot, but I don't know what it was," another said.

"Car, the engine?" another asked.

Jane Alcorn is trying to change that. She's the driving force behind the international effort to save Wardenclyffe, which served as Tesla's lab in 1901, where the visionary inventor sought to change the world.

"When you flick on your lights, it's because Nikola Tesla developed the system by which we transmit electricity," Alcorn, the president of the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe's board, said.

"Speedometer, tackometer, early X-rays, neon," Marc Alessi, the executive director, said, listing some of Tesla's achievements.

"Robotics, remote control, microwave oven," Joseph Sikorski, the director of the "Tower To The People" documentary, added.

Tesla's AC Power supplied electricity all over the globe. Convinced he could also spread electricity wirelessly, he built an 18-story transmission tower, but money ran out. With no financial incentive for free energy, Tesla died penniless and the tower was torn down. But it's footprint remains, and soon the decaying site will rise again.

"This is a lot bigger than just Long Island. It's our responsibility to preserve this site for the world," Alessi said.

The Tesla science center is weeks away from construction after online crowdfunding raised nearly $1 million to buy the land. Last month, it was declared an historical site.

Now, millions more are being raised to build a world-class science research center.

"A Nikola Tesla museum, a learning center, an entrepreneurial space," Alcorn said.

"To really inspire our population about the importance of innovation in our lives," Alessi said.

Filmmaker Joseph Sikorski told Gusoff the site still matters.

"He wanted to send free, wireless energy to the whole world. The tower is no longer there to do that, so it stands as a symbol of uniting the world, but also a symbol of where the wold went wrong," he said.

"What he provided for humanity, we can't help but preserve this," Alcorn said.

The welcome center could open by year end, and the lab museum within three years. The goal is not only to preserve the past, but like Tesla, to look to the future.

The museum also received a $1 million donation from the inventor and owner of Tesla Motors, Elon Musk.

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