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Student finalist in international design competition

Friday, October 04, 2013

LAWRENCE — The Arc Tap, a faucet designed by University of Kansas student Leslie Montes, Houston, is among the finalists for an international design competition, the James Dyson Award. The contest is intended to inspire college students studying industrial design and engineering to create an innovative product that solves a specific problem. 

Leslie MontesMontes, a student in the Department of Design, and a fellow student developed the design earlier this year when she was a study-abroad student at the Istituto Europeo di Design in Madrid. The Arc Tap was a class project conceived as an exercise in inclusive design, the practice of designing products that can be used by the greatest possible number of people.

Montes said her inspiration was a faucet she had difficulty turning on and off in her Madrid apartment.

“It had knobs, and I couldn’t turn it all the way off when my hands were soapy and wet,” she said. “I thought, why does it have to turn like that, why couldn’t it be something that you just push?”

It was not difficult for Montes and her collaborator Pablo Rocha, Madrid, to imagine that a faucet that was easier to use would be beneficial to people who suffer from motor or visual impairments.

Rather than using knobs, Montes’ Arc Tap has two levers. Pushing on one lever controls the volume of water flowing from the faucet. The other lever controls the water temperature. It incorporates an innovative tactile feedback system, which allows a user to judge how hot or cold the water is based on the temperature of the lever itself.

The Arc Tap also features an integrated soap dispenser. Pulling the water flow lever toward the user automatically stops the flow of water before releasing the liquid soap. This encourages water savings, controls amount of soap used and improves cleanliness. The entry can be viewed on the James Dyson Award website.

Students from 18 countries are eligible to enter the James Dyson Award Competition, which is administered by the James Dyson Foundation. Dyson is a British industrial designer known for his innovative designs for vacuum cleaners, wheelbarrows, and hand-dryers among others.

The next stage of the competition concludes Thursday, Oct. 10, when a panel of Dyson engineers announces the top 20 projects from around the world. James Dyson will select the grand prize winner from these and will announce it Nov. 7.

Montes is the first KU student to study at the Istituto Europeo di Design in Madrid. She secured a position there largely as a result of her own initiative. After researching various design programs and contacting them herself, she was admitted to the program.

“I hope that this established connection with IED Madrid will make it easier for other KU design students to study abroad in Spain,” she says.