A 12 year old is changing the future of printing braille one lego at a time

Shubham Banerjee was shocked at the high cost of braille printers, so he decided to sit down and build his own



Sarah Gray
March 4, 2014 3:19AM (UTC)

Shubham Banerjee is everything the Silicon Valley should be -- ingenious, and altruistic.  And it could be, if he's the future of innovation.  One day the curious seventh grader at San Jose's Champion School asked his father, "How do blind people read?"  His father, who works for Intel, gave the Silicon Valley version of "Go ask your mom," telling Banerjee, "Google it."

According to a news report on NBC Bay Area, Banerjee then plunged into internet research about braille.  What he found out was how expensive braille printers are: many start at around $2,000.  His first thought was that when he was older he'd buy printers for the blind, but then creativity struck.  Always a fan of Legos, which he started building with at age two, Banerjee decided to build his own out of a Lego Mindstorms kit (which comes in at only $350, a fraction of the cost).  After four weeks and seven failed prototypes, Braigo, Banerjee's name for his braille printer, punched out its first letters.

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The printer has since received a quite a bit of media attention and even kudos from Lego on twitter:

According to the Braigo Google+ page, Banerjee is not out to profit from his invention.  He plans on releasing instructions for how to program and build Braigo free of charge to give "a new tool in the hands of blind institutions or even parents with visually impaired children to use this printer at a 80% savings from commercially available products out there in the market."

Banerjee has also taken to YouTube, posting videos of his invention in action including the video below with Henry "Hoby" Wedler, a PhD candidate at U.C. Davis and 2012 White House Champion of Change.  In the video Wedler, who is blind, tests out the printer and offers ways to continue improving the machine.  "I am struck by, really, the innovation of this device, and your ability to so skillfully and humbly think about putting something like this together and on paper at 12 years old," Wedler said.  "It's absolutely brilliant, and I tell you with full conviction that you have a bright long future."

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Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email sgray@salon.com.

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