The inspiration for an invention can be totally unexpected. The inventor is in the right place at the right time and possesses the creative imagination necessary to move forward with an idea. That was certainly the case for Adriana Born, inventor of the aircurlerTM.

Born was inspired by the experience of having her hair styled using a hairdryer and a bowl. By placing a segment of hair into the bowl, the cylindrical motion caused by the air flow against the sides of the bowl resulted in a classic “Goldie Locks” curl. Born successfully duplicated the effect with her daughter’s hair using an oatmeal canister attached to a hairdryer. She had found a way to bring the beauty salon look into her home by creating a device usable by practically anyone. Her next step was to create a marketable product.

Born and her husband collaborated on several prototypes in an attempt to create the perfect curl. The prototypes were moderately successful in curling hair but did not produce the kind of tight curl that Born wanted. Then, Born cut a hole in the bottom of a large foam cup leaving part of the bottom section intact. Testing the new design, she found that it produced the exact effect she had been seeking. How to proceed, however, was a bit unclear.

It was about then that Born decided to attend the annual Houston Inventors Association Tradeshow, and sit in on a presentation given by Nick Gardner, Program Manager for the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership’s Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program (SATOP). In Texas, the program is funded through grants from NASA and the State of Texas. After the session, Born seized the opportunity to demonstrate her latest prototype to Gardner and said that she would like the design of the product evaluated to determine how the shape of the air chamber affects the tightness of the curl. Additionally, gaining a better understanding of how the product works would assist her in making it more aesthetically pleasing.

Born submitted a request for technical assistance to SATOP, and SATOP Alliance Partner Jay LeBeau at NASA’s Johnson Space Center expressed an interest in the project. LeBeau and two colleagues suggested changing a few key parameters. These precise calculations were exactly what was needed to move Born’s project along.

With SATOP’s assistance, Born ultimately perfected a final prototype, which is patent-pending. The future looks bright for Born’s creation. She has received her first order of 3,000 aircurlers, created a marketing video, and appeared on two Houston TV stations.

“The SATOP engineers were so helpful. Seeing the physics behind the aerodynamic vortex technology was fascinating,” she said. “It’s no wonder that only three percent of inventions ever get marketed - there is an incredible amount of work involved! I’m very grateful to SATOP for the expert assistance I received.”