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The following article appeared March 24, 2006 in the

 Kid at Heart.

Science lover donates high-tech memorabilia to schools, museums.

By Peter Franceschina
Staff Writer

 Rick Newman still acts like a kid.

    It's not just the remote-controlled helicopters and cars. Or the vintage pinball machines and video games, the collection of space exploration stuff, the electronic gizmos cluttering his Boca Raton home. Or even the two futuristic-looking electric cars in the driveway.
"It's an attitude, a way of life. And it usually involves a big grin, especially when he's buzzing around in one of the brightly colored electric cars that captivate the curious.

    I'm a kid at heart. What can I say?" Newman, a young-looking 50, admits with an unapologetic shrug. And then he flashes that grin again.

    He often asks, "How cool is that?"

    He has an outdoor pool table and ping pong table in the side yard, next to a tiki bar. With a huge commercial generator installed after Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in 2004 and an industrial size propane grill, he hosted a cookout for electricity-less neighbors after Hurricane Wilma in October (2005). It was a beacon of bright light and merriment in the otherwise darkened neighborhood.

    "I must have had 50 or 60 people here from the neighborhood," Newman says. "People were playing pool and ping pong. The bar was open. It was like an oasis in the middle of the desert."

    One recent day Newman was standing next to his electric cars in the driveway, talking about the purple one, his new $25,000 toy. A man in a Hummer drives by slowly: "Hey, they're having babies," he calls out, chuckling. Newman laughs, too. Everyone in the neighborhood knows the electric-car guy.

    The name of Newman's science-oriented Web site,, is emblazoned on the sides of his electric cars. The Web site has the details on the cars, as well as Newman's space collection.

    As a kid, Newman always was tinkering with broken radios and televisions. The moon landing fascinated him.

    "My absolute favorite show was Lost in Space. I would have done anything to be Will Robinson, to go out with your family and go on all these cool adventures," says Newman, a Star Trek fan.

    He's been collecting items used in the American and Russian space programs since he was 13, when he won first place in the statewide science fair in New York and was awarded a plaque from NASA. The plaque contained a piece of microfilm that had been flown to the moon. Young Rick Newman was off and running on his space collection.

    These days, he shares (and loans) pieces of his collection with museums and donates others to schools.

    "Rick Newman is like a kid on Christmas morning when you start talking about his space collection," said Jim Rollings, president of the South Florida Science Museum in West Palm Beach, which features a number of pieces from Newman's collection.

    One of the most popular items on display, Rollings said, is a Russian space toilet. "He loves to acquire these exotic pieces of space memorabilia and then find a place where people can look at them."

    His house is a testament to his interests: The lights come on in rooms when you walk in; motorized curtains open at dawn and close at dusk; plants are automatically watered; and there's an elaborate video surveillance system connected to flat screen monitors in the garage and office to see what's going on around the house.

    Newman has been donating computers, telescopes, aquariums, weather stations, insect displays and other items to schools since 1999, so teachers can set up science centers.

    He's particularly proud that his 20th science center is being set up in the Wayne Barton Study Center in Boca Raton. The nonprofit center helps children with their studies and life skills. He's even donating a 23-foot powerboat to the center.

    "There is a whole opportunity out there, and we hope to host a science fair here real soon," said Barton, a former police officer. "We are going to broaden their vision."

    In the summer of 2003, Newman donated science exhibits, computers and other equipment to a small school district in northeastern Montana that serves the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. Elementary, middle and high school teachers use the science center, math teacher Sheryl Kohl said.

    "Our teachers have used it extensively. When we first got it, we had community tours of what was donated," Kohl said. "It has been wonderful. For our situation, our kids don't have access to museums or universities or anything like that."

    After high school, Newman worked in the Catskills (of New York), installing video and sound systems in clubs and working shows with popular entertainers of the day. On his business Web site, High-TechProductions
.com, Newman has posted photos of his younger self, posing with Frankie Avalon, Florence Henderson, Milton Berle and Kathy Lee Gifford.

    Eventually, Newman started his own video production company and then set up a video copying business. Most of his work these days involves copying CDs and DVDs.

    Newman moved to Boca Raton in 1992, and two years later, he married his girlfriend, Jeanne. Meanwhile, his business has prospered, allowing him to share his love of science. He estimates he has spent more than $1 million on equipment for his science centers and on space gear he has donated.

    "I don't have any kids. Who am I going to leave it to?" he says. "I don't need the money. I like giving back... I love it when I go to one of the science centers and see the kids playing with everything I donated. That's what makes it all worthwhile."

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