In New York City, and perhaps someday nationwide, graffiti may be a here-today, gone-tomorrow phenomenon, thanks to a local public school chemistry teacher. Tired of looking at the vandalism, and out of his own sense of frustration, Bob Black did what he does best and created a product to get rid of the problem.
"I have always used chemistry to problem-solve," Mr. Black said in a recent interview.
After four years of working on a solution to get rid of graffiti easily, he came up with G Pro, a substance that reacts to the glue in spray paint. The clear liquid, patented in February, can be applied to surfaces to make spray paint removable with hot water and a high-pressure sprayer. City workers already have used the product on the Brooklyn Bridge and other bridges throughout the city, several housing projects, and commuter trains.
Mr. Black, 50, has been teaching chemistry for 27 years and is the department coordinator at Brooklyn Technical High School. Each of the school's 5,000 students is required to take a chemistry class.
In college, he studied chemical engineering. He said he "backed into" teaching in order to stay out of the Vietnam War. When the war ended, Mr. Black stayed with teaching.
Inventing also is something that Mr. Black says he could not stay away from. His grandfather created the pesticide Black Flag and also invented a machine to make medicine tablets.
"Inventing is in my genes," Mr. Black said. "I've been blessed with scientific talent."
Twenty-five years ago, the teacher created his first invention in his home laboratory. Mr. Black described the device--called "Saved by the Bell"--as a bell in a box that is kept near a telephone and used to interrupt unwanted phone conversations. It was not successful, Mr. Black said, but "it worked." Since that invention, he has acquired several patents.
He is now focusing on concrete and ways to make it longer-lasting, lighter, and stronger.
"I want to revolutionize concrete," he said. It is his dream, and for Mr. Black, dreams are important: "If you don't have dreams you have nightmares."
But while he works in his lab to bring his dreams to fruition, he continues to teach.
"No matter how much money I make," he said, "teaching is what I do best."
--Adrienne D. Coles