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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The 12-Year-Old Who Designed A Low-Cost Braille Printer From Legos

By Shreya Pareek

What were you doing when you were 12? Playing your favourite video game? Finishing your homework? Going on a vacation with family? Shubham Banerjee, a 12-year-old seventh grader from California has invented a low-cost Braille printer to help the visually impaired. All he needed was some Legos and support from the family.

“I think I am doing something that can actually help people,” Banerjee says. It all started when a flyer asking for donations for visually impaired landed on the Banerjee family’s doorsteps. Shubham started thinking about the difficulties faced by visually impaired people, and a little bit of Google-ing revealed that a Braille printer costs a whopping $2000.

Banerjee was surprised and thought to do something about it. “I wanted to do something for others, but didn’t know much about Braille,” he says.

Picture Source

Being a Lego lover since childhood, he came up with an idea to put his toys to a better use. A month of mix and match and experiments, and he managed to design a Braille printer with the help of his $350 toy set. Banerjee proudly named this invention as “Braigo” which is a mash up of Braille and Lego.

“I didn’t know if it was possible but I wanted to at least give it a try,” Banerjee says. He worked around 7 failed models before finally coming up with the right prototype.

How it works?

Introduced in a science fair, Braigo has captured attention across the globe. The simple technique and the low-cost are the USPs of the prototype.

Push up pins act as the print head and push Braille characters onto the paper. A controller helps to scroll and choose the required alphabet. Banerjee used a LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 set and a modified Robot model to make a functional printer. Braigo takes 5-7 seconds to print one letter.

Here is a demo of Braigo to understand the machine better:

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Many companies like Lego and National Instruments have contacted him but right now Banerjee is only focusing on improving the device and enhancing the prototype to make it easier to use.

“My dad mentioned to me yesterday night, not to jump off the gun if I have to execute my vision of a sub $150 Braille printer. I need to make the prototype first and show everyone that it is possible. If I go to the crowd for funding, then it is a big responsibility because people will entrust me with their own hard earned money to support me. I agreed that over summer I will work on making the prototype ready and show it to all of you. I don’t know if it will be feasible but I will try,” he said on his Facebook page.

Currently a biology student, Banerjee loves to play guitar in his free time and wants to be a neurosurgeon when he grows up. You can know more about his work through his Facebook Page.

Banerjee, through his simple innovation proved that one does not need money to do something. A dedicated mind can do wonders. The Braille printer is an exceptional example of the wonders the younger generation can do.

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