Inspired by the traditional “nasoni” street water fountains found in Rome, Nasoni Company founder, President and CEO Steve Waddell is engineering a range of aesthetically pleasing bathroom “fountain faucets” that save water and make essential, everyday tasks like hand washing, grooming or getting a drink of water easier for people with physical limitations.
“I’ve always had a process improvement mindset,” Waddell explains. “I see an object, a process or a piece of machinery, and one of my first thoughts is: How could this be optimized? I’ve always tended to see things differently than most people. When I thought about how a seemingly ordinary piece of plumbing like a faucet could be enhanced to save water and improve the lives of others, I became excited about the possibilities.”
Waddell is a certified Project Management and Risk Management Professional with an impressive CV who enjoys the hands-on physicality of engineering. At the company’s headquarters in Suffolk, a showroom displays an elegant array of single-lever, widespread and centerset bathroom fountain faucets in a variety of finishes. In his office, 3D-printed faucet models, and machined components illustrate the Nasoni faucet’s various stages of evolution.
“When I was doing foundational research for this project, I encountered fountain-type faucets that were cheaply made, and seemed designed as an afterthought,” Waddell continues. “I wanted to create a premium product that was built to last, using the best quality components. We make our faucets from solid brass, using smooth-operating ceramic disc valves in our levers which activate by a gentle touch. People with crippling arthritis or other conditions that restrict fine motor skills find our faucets easy to operate.”
Nasoni fountain faucets are getting a warm reception at trade shows and at assistive technology conferences. Waddell says that it’s a humbling experience when people with mobility, or communication disabilities thank him for his efforts on their behalf. “People with disabilities should be seen and heard,” Waddell continues. “I’m pleased that our first product range is making a difference in people’s lives. To take things to next level, we’re currently developing a new product, the Access H2O Smart Sensor Faucet, so we can make an even bigger difference.”
With funding from high-profile awards and grants, including a Small Business Innovation Grant from the National Institutes of Health, Waddell has assembled teams of human factor engineering experts, as well as specialists from ODU’s Monarch Physical Therapy and Mechanical Engineering Departments to assist with different phases of prototyping and testing to help bring the Access H2O Smart Sensor Faucet to market.
Mical Nixon and Kylie Donald are both student board members of the Monarch Engineering and Innovation Lab, a student-run fabrication lab open to engineering students at ODU. For Nasoni, Nixon and Donald are a part of Access H2O phase I and II design teams.
“We’ve worked on 3D printing components, construction, and integrating the faucet at ODU Physical Therapy,” Nixon explains. “For clinical testing, we’ve been collaborating with ODU Monarch Physical Therapy (MPT) where the smart sensor faucet is installed. Able-bodied users are volunteers from the clinic, and ODU MPT conducted outreach to locate volunteers with spinal cord injuries to help us with the testing.”
“The prototype smart sensor faucet can be activated using a variety of methods,” Nixon continues. “Eye gaze or mouth control, motion sensing and voice control, so a wide range of people are capable of engaging with it regardless of physical ability. For able-bodied people, it may seem simple to get a drink of water, or to perform basic hygiene functions. For people with physical disabilities, it’s not so simple. Nearly everyone one who has tested the faucet comments that it provides them with an increased level of independence.”
“That’s one of the great things about what this project,” Waddell relates. “We’re working on a solution that will change lives, and we’re doing it alongside ODU students who are experiencing the positive, practical impacts of their work.”
Learn more at Nasoni.com.