n 2019, Roberto Acuto was named a winner of Airbus Foundation and ESA’s Moon Camp Challenge, which tasked school-aged participants with designing a Moon base camp. This year, Roberto is using the 3D printer he won at the challenge to print ventilator valve fittings for use by hospitals on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy.
Twelve-year-old Roberto Acuto of Valenza, Italy loves history, reading, video games, and basketball. But his greatest passions? Technology and robotics. In fact, by the age of ten, he had already built a musical robot that took part in competitions across Europe. Then, at age 11, he was a winner of the Airbus Foundation and ESA’s Moon Camp Challenge for his moon base: Astromakers. A cool concept that won him his own 3D printer!
Today, Roberto is using his 3D printer for good. After setting it up with the help of his robotics teacher, he is now printing valve fittings to transform Decathlon snorkelling masks into ventilators for COVID-19 patients.
Q. How did you get involved in the Moon Camp Challenge?
In primary school, my teachers Chiara and Elisa introduced me to a “Moon and Space” programme, which got me interested in these topics. After attending the first LEGO® league in Genoa (where I got to build a Moon base using LEGO®!), I decided to join the Moon Camp Challenge and started to experiment with the 3D-design programme Tinkercad. Since then, I’ve created a lunar rover and will create a satellite the size of soda can!
Q. What did you learn from the challenge?
First of all, I learned how much I like to design in 3D, and how to work in a team with my classmates—both in class and online. I also learned how to use a 3D printer. Now, I can make anything I can think of.
Q. How did you feel when you won the challenge last year?
I never thought I would win such an important global competition. When I received an email telling me I had made it to the finals, I couldn’t believe it. It was like a dream come true, which already made me feel like a winner. So when my mom told me I had won, I thought she was joking and had to read the email several times. It’s a moment I’ll never forget!
"First of all, I learned how much I like to design in 3D, and how to work in a team with my classmates, both in class and online. I also learned how to use a 3D printer. Now, I can make anything I can think of.”
Roberto Acuto, 2019 Moon Camp Challenge winner
Q. As a winner, you received a 3D printer as a prize. How did you come up with the idea to design and print valve fittings for ventilators using your 3D printer?
My mom saw a Facebook message asking people with a 3D printer to print valves that could help transform Decathlon snorkelling masks into ventilators. This was during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The message had been posted by my robotics teacher, Valeria, so we called her right away. In a couple of days, with her online help, I learned how to print the valve fittings.
Q. You have such a passion for robotics. Where do you see yourself in the future?
I’m currently in secondary school but in two years’ time, I’ll have to choose which subject to specialise in. I’m definitely leaning towards science and technology subjects. I wish to study subjects that have to do with innovation, such as fighting pollution, so I’m better equipped to face the future. I really don't know what I’ll end up doing because, by the time I start working, there will be jobs that don’t exist yet!
Roberta Acuto is one of the winners of the 2019 Moon Camp Challenge, a collaborative, education project between ESA and the Airbus Foundation, in partnership with Autodesk. The challenge uses innovative learning technologies to challenge students to design their own Moon settlement with a 3D modelling tool (Tinkercad or Fusion 360). Congratulations to the 2020 Moon Camp Challenge winners who were recently announced in June 2020.