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
Lexile

In California's Silicon Valley, it's never too early to start a business. Just ask 13-year-old Shubham Banerjee.

The eighth-grader has launched a company 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. It's called Braigo Labs.

Shubham built a braille printer with a Lego robotics kit as a school science fair project last year. He did it after he asked his parents 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 many blind readers.

"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 with a Lego Mindstorms EV3 kit.

Shubham wants to develop a desktop braille printer that costs around $350 and weighs just a few pounds. Current models 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, and can print from a personal computer or other electronic device.

"My end goal would probably be having most of the blind people using my braille printer," said Shubham, who lives in Santa Clara, just minutes away from Intel headquarters.

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

"We, as parents. started to get involved more, thinking that he's on to something and this innovation process has to continue," said his father, Niloy Banerjee. He is an engineer who works for Intel.

Shubham used the money to build a more sophisticated version of his Lego-based printer using 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 so impressed with Shubham's printer that in November they invested an undisclosed sum in his startup. Intel officials believe he's the youngest entrepreneur to receive venture capital, which is 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 (171)
  • elleryw-Weh
    1/30/2015 - 09:27 a.m.

    An advantage of a Braille printer is that, if you are blind, you can carry it around with you. The text stated that he wanted to make the Braille printer cost less and weigh less. The text also states that braigo labs were going to make that happen. These are some advantages for a lighter, and one that costs less, Braille printer.

    • ZH2001blue
      2/02/2015 - 09:12 a.m.

      Me to I also want to know how it is made. Making things out of lego is really fun but what he made was even more impressing than even I can even do.

  • djwebb
    1/30/2015 - 11:04 a.m.

    I can't believe it a 8th grader built a braille printer with legos it's so cool. I would love to meet this guy. I am interested in your desin it is wow. I am a lego guy my self.

  • jacobb-Weh
    1/30/2015 - 11:26 a.m.

    Wow I am so impressed to what you have built! I hope this isn't too much to ask but if you could make instructions for it then we could build it please. I bet if you can do this then more people would want to build it.

  • ChinDakota-DiB
    1/30/2015 - 11:32 a.m.

    The advantages of this new form of braille printer is that blind people can pay for it with out spending a large amount of money and it is smaller and lighter so blind people can take it where ever they want.

  • collin550
    1/30/2015 - 11:34 a.m.

    This is AWESOME (did I spell that right idk? lol) but this is a great topic a kid who builds a lego printer beast mode who does that though wait this guys just did can I make one NOTE TO SELF TRY THIS ! well this guys cool to accomplish something like this GREAT JOB KIDDO (I want to end it here but don't want to) BYE

  • FerraraAntonio-DiB
    1/30/2015 - 11:44 a.m.

    the advantage of having a braille printer is that you can carry it wherever you need it, its more affordable and its smaller than most printers

  • jordanmo-Pen
    1/30/2015 - 11:49 a.m.

    i think this is real but im wondering how does he transfor ink legos are not a electronic

  • dylan.goodwin34
    1/30/2015 - 12:52 p.m.

    That was amazing. How would that work it makes no sense. I would like to see it work. I like this paper because I love Legos.

  • TR2001golden
    1/30/2015 - 01:05 p.m.

    One advantage of a light-weight braille printer is that it is easier to carry so you can take it basically where ever you go. it is a portable printer for your phone too so it is easier.

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