sustainable business on networked connections on green background

Maria-Eleni Batatoudi and Charikleia Moraitaki: Photovoltaic 3D-printed trees

Catching up with past Ricoh Sustainable Development Award winners

Celebrating innovation, bold ideas, and bright futures in sustainability.

Since 2005, Ricoh has honored its commitment to sustainability through the Ricoh Sustainable Development Award (RSDA) presented at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).

The award, given to high school students who demonstrate innovative yet practical ways of protecting our environment, was valued at $10,000 this year, and was given to Muhil Thendral, who developed a creative idea for removing chemical contaminants from drinking water. 

As we celebrate this year’s winner, we also reflect on the incredible innovation and commitment we’ve seen over the years from some truly brilliant young minds.

We recently caught up with our 2021 RSDA winners: Maria-Eleni Batatoudi and Charikleia Morataiki from Athens, Greece, to discuss how winning the award has supported their sustainability efforts beyond the science fair. Their joint invention, “Solar Park with Photovoltaic 3D-printed Trees: Technology Allies with Nature” was a 3D-printed forest made from eco-friendly materials designed to tackle the global energy crisis and combat climate change by harvesting solar energy. Their prototype took the form of a tree – nature’s own perfect, energy-harnessing design – with panels, or “leaves,” made of photovoltaic cells to harvest solar energy.

What did the RSDA scholarship mean to you?

The RSDA scholarship was an immense honor, not only because of its monetary aid, but because of the meaning behind it. It recognizes a need for sustainable development and our future within this global goal. 

Winning the award encouraged us to continue this path and pursue our interests for the greater good. It encouraged us to expand our research and find additional, innovative ways to pave the way towards a sustainable future.

It gave us the opportunity to cultivate our skills, expand our horizons, and excel in the field we are most attracted to, that of energy. 

This was a life chance for us, being teenagers still, to express our worries for our planet, navigate ourselves in the pathways of specialists and engineers, and find solutions for green energy collection challenges.  

This award gave us the support and opportunity to develop our project further, aligning new efforts with our vision to stabilize and mitigate climate change, increase the efficiency of solar energy collection methods, and meet the unlimited energy needs of our planet.

How have you continued your commitment to sustainability in the time since you participated in ISEF?

Sustainability remains an important aspect of our daily lives. As a team, we continued our project and extended our research.

Specifically, we added innovations on our solar trees that contribute to our attempt to build a sustainable future. We also have plans to pursue our studies further and research in sustainability in college. 

Furthermore, in the year since receiving the RSDA scholarship, we have had the opportunity to speak in the Hellenic Parliament’s environmental and equity committees about our ISEF experience, sustainability, and sharing our perspective on introducing it in education.

Why is it important for today’s businesses to embrace sustainability?

It is beneficial for businesses to embrace sustainability for themselves and the planet. Sustainability is becoming increasingly important in our daily lives as climate change and environmental threats surround us. Individual responsibility cannot cover for the whole solution, especially since businesses create the conditions around which people live. If businesses embrace sustainability, they can benefit in the short term by positive responses from environmentalists, and long term as they will have contributed to the preservation of the ecosystem.

What is the greatest opportunity you see in the world to make progress toward protecting our planet?

Opportunities are given every day. ISEF is one of these great opportunities. Young scientists can lead the world and protect our planet with their innovative and resourceful ideas. However, the most important is continuing this journey after ISEF and being determined to materialize these projects towards a green and sustainable future. ISEF is the first step to merge young innovators’ ideas and make them a reality.

Stay tuned for another upcoming feature on our 2019 USDA winner, Michael Chen!

Learn more about Ricoh's commitment to corporate and social responsibility here.

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