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 become an entrepreneur. 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, Braigo Labs.

Shubham built a braille printer with a Lego robotics kit as a school science fair project last year 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 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 with a Lego Mindstorms EV3 kit.

Shubham wants to develop a desktop braille printer that costs around $350 and weighs 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, and can print from a personal computer or 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 with 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, 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, 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 17 times


COMMENTS (13)
  • GS-Rei
    2/10/2015 - 03:56 p.m.

    One advantage is you can move it around more since it would be lighter and it wouldn't add weight to any cabinets and make the braille printer hard to carry.

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

    One advantage of a light braille printer is that it can be transported from place to place. Now people can start bringing it wherever they go because it is so light.

  • kellenm-Bit
    4/14/2015 - 01:19 p.m.

    Lego's and very small batteries that has lots of power. It depends on how big it is. if you wanted a small one you need a smaller one.

  • jaymees-Bit
    4/14/2015 - 01:19 p.m.

    There are many advantages of a light-weight and cheaper braille printer. First of all, why would you want to buy a braille printer for $2000, when you can get one for around $350? Second, a smaller and less heavier printer would be more convenient and easy to carry on the go.

  • austin3-Bit
    4/14/2015 - 01:22 p.m.

    One of the advantages of having a light-weight braille printer is that it will be easy to carry with you, and if the printers are small they wont take up a lot of space.

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

    One advantage of a light-weight printer could be its price. The less material that is used to construct the printer, the less expensive it would be. Many visually impaired people could afford it, thereby making their lives easier. The lightness of the printer would also increase its portability. You could take it anywhere with you since it's not as heavy. Having a portable braille printer around with you all the time would help you because you would be able to function properly since you have things written in braille. I support Shubham Banerjee's decision to make braille printers lighter.

  • julias-Bit
    4/14/2015 - 01:24 p.m.

    One advantage of a light weight printer is that it will cost less. The story states that before Banerjee, brail printers coasted at least 2,000$. Now, Banerjee's new printer costs only about 350$

  • vinnip-Bit
    4/14/2015 - 01:25 p.m.

    An advantage of a light-weight printer would be that it is more portable. You can easily carry it around and place it in a school for the blind, then later bring it back home and put it somewhere in a study room or something.

  • kieraf-Bit
    4/14/2015 - 01:26 p.m.

    One advantage of having a light-weight braille printer is it can move around easily.Having a twenty pound braille printer is much too hard to move around from one place to another, but having a light- weight printer is easy to carry in your purse or backpack. imagine if you were a teacher at a school for blind children and you had to bring 31 braille printers. That would be way too heavy. Imagine if you were a teacher at a school for blind children and you had to bring 31 light- weight braille printers. That wouldn't be so hard of heavy to do. That's an advantage of the light-weight braille printers. As you can see, moving around light-weight braille printers is an advantage

  • lilaa-Bit
    4/14/2015 - 01:37 p.m.

    In the following passage "Teen uses Legos to build braille printer", one of the advantage of a light weight braille printer is that if it's light you can actually travel with the printer. For instance, if a person needed to take the printer with him/her it would be much easier to hold it than having a 2,000 pound printer with you. Also if you compare the prices to a heavier printer and a lighter printer,the lighter printer cost less than the heavier one which people like. In all light weight printers are more easier to handle with than heavy weight printers.

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