It’s breathable, waterproof, fire-resistant, antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiviral. It’s NanoForm and to date, it has changed the lives of three teens from Taos, N.M. Though the name and description sound like something straight from an infomercial, Nanoform’s inventors, Cameron Gonzales, 16, Daniel Cordova, 16, and Indigo Acosta, 15, will tell you, it’s the real thing.
“It kind of happened on accident,” Gonzales said of how the three came to discover the substance they chose to call NanoForm. “We had three different projects. Indigo was working with carbon, Daniel was working with the main fireproofing element, the baking soda, and for my project I was using crab shells for filtering water.”
After discovering that the crushed crab shells were adhering to their clothes, the Taos High School sophomores decided to apply all three elements to clothing and realized that the substance they had created when applied to fabric, made it stronger, waterproof, antibacterial and fire-resistant. From there it was only a matter of time before someone outside of Taos became interested in their project.
“It can be used by first responders, firefighters, EMTs, police and now with all the school shootings it can be used as school uniforms,” Gonzales said.
Showing the most interest in NanoForm, however, is the United States Army.
“I’ve had a couple of calls from people that would be willing to invest in our project,” Gonzales said. “But the Army is that has tried to get us the most.”
The Army was so interested, in fact, that in October of last year they flew the teen inventors to Boston to showcase their experiment to the researchers at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.
“They were really shocked,” Gonzales said of the researchers reaction to the inventors’ project and their age. “They kept asking how old we were, because they thought we were all college students working at a university. They were amazed that we came up with it and how good of an idea it was.”
Of course, Boston was just part of the trio’s journey last year as they also made a memorable appearance with Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show.
After preparing a presentation video in the form of an audition for the Tonight Show producers, Gonzales, Acosta and Cordova learned shortly after that they had been accepted to appear live on the show, which included $5,000 for each and a paid trip to New York City.
“When I first found out that they were going to send the video at first I thought, ‘that would be really cool,’ but I kept telling myself, ‘no, these three kids from such a small town, that’s not gonna happen,’” said Cameron’s mother, Dinah Gonzales. “When I got word that they were going, I jumped up and I didn’t know what to do, I was so excited for them.”
For Cameron Gonzales the visit meant his first trip to New York and he took it head on.
“It was crazy,” he said. “The traffic doesn’t stop. There are people everywhere all the time and sirens throughout the night. It was kind of…cool. I liked it.”
Of course going to New York is one thing, being in front of a live studio audience with highest-paid late-night host on the highest-rated late-night program, is another.
“Don’t mess up,” Gonzales said about what was going through his mind prior to taking the stage on their December visit to The Tonight Show. “People were everywhere, but once you got on stage you couldn’t see them because of the lights. So it was just like another presentation.”
With the Tonight Show success in the rearview, Gonzales said he is now focused on furthering his studies – the $5,000 he received from the show is now in a college fund – and getting closer to his goal of becoming a veterinarian.
“Having the opportunity to travel the country with this project was inspiring,” Gonzales said. “It made me think that maybe it would be good if I left Taos. For college, I’m probably going to leave to Texas A&M and then come back to Taos, because I like it there.”