12-year-old builds low-cost Lego braille printer

A seventh grader's science fair project turns into a quest to develop a customizable low-cost printer for the blind.

Shubham Banerjee with the braille printer
Shubham Banerjee created a printer that could be used in developing countries. Neil Banerjee

Shubham Banerjee, a California seventh grader, is one of those kids whose heart and mind extend well beyond his own life and into the the wider world beyond. For a science fair project, he contemplated the issue of braille printers, which can cost upwards of $2,000, and decided there must be a better way.

The better way he came up with involved the clever use of a $350 Lego Mindstorms EV3 kit along with a few bucks worth of hardware from Home Depot. He took a basic, preexisting pattern for a printer and reworked it with new software and hardware enhancements to print out letters in braille. The result is called the Braigo.

The Braigo's controller is set up to scroll through the alphabet. You choose a letter and it prints it out with tactile bumps on a roll of calculator paper. The print head is actually a thumbtack, which Banerjee settled on after also testing a small drill bit and a mechanical pencil.

The first prototype isn't terribly fast, but it proves the concept works. Banerjee is working on improvements that will allow it to print full pages of text.

Banerjee isn't content to just sit on his creation. He is in the process of making it all open-source so people anywhere can create their own Braigos and advance the software to extend its capabilities. He hopes it will be particularly useful in developing countries where it's simply not practical to buy an expensive braille printer.

The Braigo Facebook page is constantly updated with details of the project. Banerjee's work at such a young age is just the start of what should be a promising career in science and engineering. He's just taking it one Lego bump at a time.

Lego braille printer
This braille printer costs hundreds less than a regular one. Neil Banerjee
 

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