3° with Riccardo Bevilacqua

by Michael Mullaney on May 1, 2012

Riccardo Bevilacqua is an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering at Rensselaer, who recently received a prestigious award and grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. We ask Riccardo about his work:

Q: You’re interested in building self-assembling space robots. Tell me a little bit about it.

A: The whole point is: we service cars, refuel them, and we repair almost everything—except satellites. The very first thing space robots would do is supporting on orbit spacecraft. And then, they will help us colonize space, self assembling in bigger robots and performing tasks that are beyond humans’ reach.

I can’t help but think of Voltron, Go-Bots, and Transformers. Did you ever watch those cartoons as a kid?

More than that, in a simple answer: I still have a small model of Voltron back at my parents’ house. I played with it so much that the lions forming the limbs had to be super-glued to the torso body! And, yes, I still enjoy its company when I go visit!

What fascinates you most about space?

I believe that we are on this planet to do great things, to go beyond our limits, and space is the Unknown, the Challenge. I simply believe that space is the coolest application for an engineer, where no discipline is left out.

When did you know that you wanted to be a engineer?

At 14 years old, when I disassembled the carburetor of my 50cc scooter just for the fun of it. I removed it, cleaned, put it back…and the scooter was still working! Big deal for me at that time! Engineers understand and do things that are just magic to other people.

What would you say to young students and high schoolers who are thinking about studying engineering or becoming an engineer?

That they need to be ready for a match, that life as an engineer can lead you anywhere in the world, but you need to love the challenge. And that the satisfaction and gratification can be beyond expectations. In three words: never give up!

You’re from Roma, Italy. I absolutely loved the city when I visited a few years ago. Tell me a little about what it was like to grow up there.

I was born in Rome, grew up in Anzio, 40 miles south. Studying near the Coliseum give you a feeling of eternity…and the food is so good ! Life in Anzio was riding a bicycle with friends and going to the beach—not too bad.

Outside of the lab and the classroom, what do you like to do for fun?

Spending time with my wife, Noemi, and my daughter, Sophia. Travelling, reading, and running. And, I used to own a Honda CBR600F before moving to the US.., my plans for the future include going back to two wheels.

To read more about Riccardo and his work, click here.