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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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?

Assigned 284 times

  • Cs2001Tardis
    1/30/2015 - 01:06 p.m.

    One advantage of a light weight braille printer is that it is easier to move. Wow! I think that this is a really great idea. I hope that it does well and helps them to read. Nice job coming up with the idea.

  • Dong100
    1/30/2015 - 01:38 p.m.

    I'm so impressed with what he made because he is only 13 year old and makes a printer? wow his parents must be proud! Good luck on future inventions Shubham Banerjee.

  • bradyb-Sch
    1/30/2015 - 01:48 p.m.

    I find this article extremely interesting, if this kid is so great with legos I wouldn't mind to see some of his other works rwv wvw fv wv w vw wv wv wv wv w v wv

  • BrendaM-Ver
    1/30/2015 - 02:33 p.m.

    That's pretty amazing that a kid that's our age Made a Braille printer out of Legos and we can't even get off the couch, this makes me want to do more instead of doing nothing all day.

  • NathanLun-Ver
    1/30/2015 - 03:33 p.m.

    Where would you go to get it repaired? How would they get in contact to buy one?Why don't more kids and younger people try to do stuff like this because if they are young enough they don't know how hard it will be they will reach for better things.

  • conneral-Sch
    1/30/2015 - 03:35 p.m.

    It is cool how he made a printer out of legos i love legos. He lives in santa clara. real braille printers cost $2,000 dollars that is a lot.

  • dylanswerdlow1
    1/30/2015 - 03:37 p.m.

    The article I read was about a teen who used Legos to build a Braille printer. Thirteen year old Shubham Banerjee has created this amazing thing. It's never to young to start a business. This kid is now trying to to create more printers and even computers out of Legos to sell. People can't believe this remarkable story. This article was a really cool read.

  • Brandon1231-YYCA
    1/30/2015 - 07:17 p.m.

    I think that it is cool to have this teen make a printer out of Lego because it is really hard to do things without instructions if you don't have a good imagination. I think that this kid should go to M.I.T because he can do things like this. I hope that he can do ore things like this and become an inventor. I hope that this kid can do something awesome in the future because something like this can get him an A easily. I hope that his parents can be with him every step of the way and i hope that the world can know what he had done with Lego. He passed the limits and he went outside of the box and he became an master builder.

  • JohnL-4
    1/30/2015 - 10:32 p.m.

    Shubham Banerjee, a 13 year old who lives in the Silicon Valley is developing a $350 braille printer. Most cost $2,000 or more, but this thrifty device is made from a Lego robotics kit, and it functions just as well. His father,who works at Intel, gave Shubham a $35,000 to improve the device. The people of Intel believe Banerjee is the youngest entrepreneur to get a venture capital. I think this is amazing that someone so young can work hard to make a difference in the world.

  • LucasH-3
    1/31/2015 - 01:03 p.m.

    A thirteen year old eighth grader from Silicon Valley, California has created a new business. It's never to early to start your own business. He is developing low-cost machines to print Braille. Shubham built a Braille printer with a Lego robotics kit for the school science fair. Intel executives have been very impressed with his ideas and constant determination to help the visually impaired.

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