A team of Grade 8 students from New Brunswick has won first place in their division of what's billed as the world's largest K-12 science fair for designing bulletproof clothing they say is 30 times stronger than the Kevlar currently used in bulletproof vests.
The future technology prototype by the four Rothesay Netherwood School students earned them the top spot in the Grades 7-9 category of the Toshiba-NSTA ExploraVision competition, over teams from across North America.
Ore Alugo, Heather Chisholm, Matthew Morehouse and Alec Oland have each won a $10,000 Canada savings bond and two tickets to the attend the awards ceremony weekend in Washington, D.C., on June 8.
They also hope to have the idea patented.
"We were really surprised. Matthew actually fell out of his chair," said Heather. "It's kind of sinking in still."
The students created the stronger, lighter, more flexible and breathable bulletproof material using magnesium infused with silicon carbide nanoparticles — materials originally used in airplanes and cars.
"It's basically a super strong, super thin metal," said Heather. "So it's actually 30 times stronger [than Kevlar] and 1,000 times smaller than a single hair," and could be used for clothing to cover more than just the torso.
They came up with the idea after coming across an article about the infused metal, created by a professor at UCLA, said Ore. Then they decided to change the ratio to make the material more flexible.
"I think he was kind of amazed … a couple of Grade 8 students thought of something like this," she said.
Developing the prototype proved challenging because the metal is very expensive to create, said Matthew. "So we had to find something with the same texture and density and weight to fill in for our metal."
They ended up using steel wool, he said, crediting the UCLA professor for his help and encouragement during a video call.
"He's the only one that's contacted us yet, but we're hoping to get it patented and then we'll go from there," said Matthew.
The students believe their material "has the potential to revolutionize bullet safety" for police officers, soldiers and citizens.
"It's been pretty cool," said Alec.
The bulletproof clothing design had previously earned the students a spot as one of 24 regional winners, which came with Toshiba tablets, a Toshiba computer for the school, as well as some plaques and a banner.
The annual competition challenges youth to "change the world by re-imagining today's technology for the future."
Heather Chisholm, Ore Alugo, Matthew Morehouse and Alec Oland ...
A bullet proof idea by Heather Chisholm, Ore Alugo, Matthew Morehouse and Alec Oland. These eighth graders from Rothesay Netherwood School have designed a bullet proof material 30 times stronger than kevlar vests. Their project has been selected by Toshiba/NSTA Exploravision as one of 24 regional winning projects. Toshiba's Robert Trenchard presented their prizes.Posted by CBC New Brunswick on Monday, April 4, 2016