Young Taos scientists take fireproof fabric invention nationwide

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When "The Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon praises your invention, you might have something there.

Three Taos students wowed the nation Wednesday (Nov. 29) when they were able to show their invention of NanoForm, a breathable, antibacterial, fireproof fabric coating, to an audience of millions on a segment on the NBC network.

Taos High School students Daniel Córdova, Indigo Acosta and Cameron Gonzáles invented their newest version of the coating material several months ago and were able to take their invention to the national eCYBERMISSION competition in Washington, D.C. over the summer. The trio was then invited by NBC to be featured guests on "The Tonight Show" with their invention that has taken several turns in design.

"At first, there were some speed bumps because I don't think anyone really cared," Córdova said. "Now that they have finally realized that its actually a big thing, people are starting to care more and they're starting to say 'this is something that's going to work.' "

The NanoTygers, as they are called, began their invention two years ago as separate ventures for a science fair. Each of the now-sophomores were working on a different project before they decided to bring their ideas together to make NanoForm. The material, made mostly out of carbon, crab shells and baking soda, came together out of the desire to make emergency personnel uniforms more protective. Having fire proof clothing could potentially reduce risks to first responders and firefighters in the midst of a disaster.

The students are now trying to perfect their coating, which is brushed on to regular fabric to give it a protective layer. The students said they have a good grasp on the possible applications of their invention and will be working over the next few years on perfecting the material.

With the advantage of taking their invention to several conferences in the past, the NanoTygers have been focusing on getting the formula right for NanoForm. Initially, the recipe used water to mix the materials together, but it is repelled by the crab shells and could lead to the coating sliding off the fabric. The trio is looking at altering the materials used and is even thinking about a micro-coating on the individual threads of cloth.

"To me, this is actually a win for science fair and science research that enables us to be able to show everybody else that there is more that we can do," said teacher sponsor Laura Tenorio. "I actually see this going into a much larger scale where it might even be commercially available to reduce injuries, even on an every day basis."

While the team is highly involved with their experiment, their talents do not stop at the door of science. All three of the students are also involved with athletics and have had to balance both activities with their daily school life. Córdova and Gonzáles are involved with basketball and wrestling, respectively, at THS while Acosta practices martial arts outside the science lab.

Taking their invention to New York for filming was an experience all of the students said left them speechless. Having the entire nation look at their project from Taos filled them with pride as they visited the Big Apple with their orange and black Taos Tigers uniforms. As for the actual experience of being on the set, the team said they were taken by the experience and were only slightly star-struck by Fallon's presence.

"It was a great experience," Gonzáles said. "Words can't explain how honored I am to just be on the show and put Taos on the map."

The next step for the team is to work toward making the material washable and even bullet proof. Acosta said he is lining up the next year or so of his life to focus on the project and plans to work on the design and formula for the next few years at least.

The students were given $5,000 each for their appearance on the show, of which they have elected to donate a portion toward the high school lab to cover costs in the future. Fundraising and out of pocket expenditures paid for the materials and trips the team takes for their ventures.

The group is now looking ahead to their next venture at the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium on March 3, as well as the regional science fair on March 10 where they will be showing their NanoForm invention to others in the area. According to Tenorio, the students have obtained a provisional patent on NanoForm.

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