While most 12-year-olds play with LEGOs, Santa Clara resident Shubham Banerjee has taken his love of the building block to the next level by developing the Braigo, an affordable braille printer.
“I’ve been loving LEGOs since I was two-years-old,” said Banerjee, a seventh grader at Champion School in San Jose. “And in the mail that came to our house in December 2013, I noticed those posts that said, ‘Help the blind people with donations.’ I had no idea about braille, so I asked my parents how blind people read and they said, ‘Google it.’ Upon further research, I discovered that typical braille printers cost about $2,000 or even more, and I felt that was unnecessarily expensive for someone already at a disadvantage. Thus, I put my brain to work, and the first thing that came to mind was to create an alternative using my favorite toy. I took the LEGO model Mindstorms EV3 and devised a new kind of braille printer that’s only $350. It took me three weeks and I broke and re-assembled seven or so different types of models before settling on one and programming it.”
After configuring the mechanical motion and design by using a rapid prototyping concept, Banerjee came up with the do-it-yourself concept that selects letters “A-Z” and “Space” from the central console (“Brick”). According to Banerjee, all that’s needed to create the Braigo is a Lego Mindstorms EV3 kit, calculator paper, thumb tack and weights.
“I developed this concept as an alternative method to teach braille to students in a teaching institute or at home,” said Banerjee. “I am uploading how to build instructions so that anybody can do it … It is a DIY concept.”
Banerjee plans to further improve Braigo by adding and improving its functionality and hopes the development community will pick up the concept and continue to enhance it. He also recently demonstrated the product at the Santa Clara Valley Blind Center where he got important feedback that will progress the product.
“They suggested other possibilities for Braigo, like making it a label printer,” he said. “They gave me small parts from a braille printer to experiment with and enhance it further. They also suggested to me to go to a specialty paper store with the samples that they gave me to further enhance the imprints.”
Even with all the interest that has been created by Briago, including articles that have been written in India West and CNET, Banerjee is continuously surprised. “The interest that I have received has been overwhelming,” he said. “I didn’t expect this at all. The first time I showed this was in my school science fair. The same weekend there was an event at the Lake Elizabeth park in Fremont where the organizers asked me to bring my model since it was so unique and show it to others. At that event, Bob Wieckowski, the California State Assembly member, recognized me with a certificate … I cannot even count how many interviews I have given or articles that have been written everywhere.”
Banerjee will upload the instructions to http://www.us.lego.com/en-us/mindstorms/community/profile?builder=sbanerjee2001. See Braigo in action by visiting http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsX9GOwo54OT9BmcqFtNgnw/videos?view=0&flow=grid and follow Banerjee’s Braigo journey at http://www.facebook.com/BraigoPrinter or http://plus.google.com/111846984926437553504/posts.