Teen uses Legos to build braille printer Shubham Banerjee works on his lego robotics braille printer at home (AP photos)
Teen uses Legos to build braille printer
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It's never too early to create your own business. Just ask 13-year-old Shubham Banerjee.

The eighth-grader from California's Silicon Valley has launched a company. He wants to develop low-cost machines to print braille. That is the writing system for the visually impaired.With braille, the readers read by touch. They feel raised spots on the paper. Tech giant Intel Corp. recently invested in his startup, Braigo Labs.

Shubham built a braille printer with a Lego robotics kit as a school science fair project last year. He had gone to his parents with a simple question. How do blind people read?

"Google it," they told him.

Shubham then did some online research. He was shocked to learn that braille printers, also called embossers, cost at least $2,000. That is too expensive for most blind readers, especially in developing countries.

"I just thought that price should not be there. I know that there is a simpler way to do this," said Shubham, who demonstrated how his printer works at the kitchen table. That's where he spent many late nights building it. He used a Lego Mindstorms EV3 kit.

Shubham wants to develop a cheaper desktop braille printer. He hopes it would cost around $350 and weigh just a few pounds. That's compared with current models that can weigh more than 20 pounds. The machine could be used to print braille reading materials on paper. It uses raised dots instead of ink.

"My end goal would probably be having most of the blind people using my braille printer," said Shubham. He lives in Santa Clara. Thats not far from Intel headquarters.

The "Braigo" name combines braille and Lego. The device won numerous awards and enthusiastic support from the blind community. So Banerjee started Braigo Labs last summer. He used an initial $35,000 investment from his dad.

The boy's father is an engineer who works for Intel.

Shubham invested the money to build a more sophisticated version of his Lego-based printer. He used an off-the-shelf desktop printer and a newly released Intel computer chip. The new model, Braigo 2.0, can translate electronic text into braille before printing.

Intel executives were impressed. In November they invested an undisclosed sum in Shubham's startup. Intel officials believe he's the youngest business person to receive venture capital. That's money invested in exchange for a financial stake in the company.

"He's solving a real problem. And he wants to go off and disrupt an existing industry. And that's really what it's all about," said Edward Ross. He is director of Inventor Platforms at Intel.

Braigo Labs is using the money to hire professional engineers and advisers. They will help design and build braille printers based on Shubham's ideas.

Critical thinking challenge: Shubham thinks braille printers should cost less. He also wants them to weigh less. What is one advantage of a light-weight braille printer?

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COMMENTS (35)
  • John0724-YYCA
    2/03/2015 - 08:19 p.m.

    This is a very interesting article because this article is about a thirteen year old kid making a braille Lego printer which is pretty darn awesome because I think that this student is really talented because it will be really hard to put the braille ink inside the Lego printer and make all the twisty things. My friend Eric is also a good builder with Lego and I think that he could make something like this if he is older. I think this eight grade kid could build more awesome stuff if he knows how to build a braille printer with Lego.

  • anthonym-DiB
    2/04/2015 - 12:59 p.m.

    its very useful tecj because its a printer to go and its made out of legos so not much metel

  • bennies-war
    2/06/2015 - 01:42 p.m.

    This is good for blind kids because they don't cost a lot but what blind kid actually needs to print stuff out?

  • RyanS-Kra
    2/25/2015 - 03:47 p.m.

    I find it intriguing that he made it out of LEGOS! I wonder how he got it to do that. Maybe he made it so that the lego brick leaves an indent on the paper, or it literally prints braille. Whats he going to end up charging for this?

  • allisonf-Bit
    4/14/2015 - 01:09 p.m.

    One advantage of a light-weight braille printer is that there is less material that was used to build it, so it would be less heavy and or less expensive. The ink that may be used will cost less because the printer itself is smaller, so you would need less of it to fill the machine.

  • kaileyg-Bit
    4/14/2015 - 01:13 p.m.

    Shubham thinks that braille printers should cost less. He also thinks they should weigh less. This is an advantage of a braille printer. One advantage is when someone buys it they don't have to haul a 20 pound printer out to there car. If a blind person is in need of a printer but they can't afford it because it is nearly $2,000 what should they do? The cost is another advantage for Shubham. When he built his braille printer he carefully took in all the details which give him advantages in the demand for braille printers.

    • amcbryde-fra
      11/12/2015 - 10:51 a.m.

      totally

  • sophiaa-Bit
    4/14/2015 - 01:17 p.m.

    In this fascinating story, Shubham believed that braille printers should cost less (the current price is $2000). But he also wants them to weigh less. A light-weight braille printer could help to lower the price. And it would be more compact and easier to take places.It could also would be more efficient for the blind community.

  • noahv-Bit
    4/14/2015 - 01:17 p.m.

    One of the advantages with this printer is that it is lighter and it is less expensive.

  • saras-Bit
    4/14/2015 - 01:23 p.m.

    I think that one advantage of a light weight braille printer (for a blind person) is that you would be able to bring it places if you needed to, and it's not a big clunky machine that has to stay home on a table or your desk.

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