CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES – Inspired by a household flyer delivered to his door seeking donations for the blind, Shubham Banerjee asked his parents, “How do blind people read?” With no time to answer he was told, “Google it.” Shubham’s research lead him to braille, Louis Braille and discovering the cost of braille printers being $US2000 and upwards.
Believing a more affordable option should be available to increase access for visually impaired people, Shubham began experimenting with LEGO and the readily available Mindstorms EV3 robotics kit to build a D-I-Y Braille printer. He ensured his prototype used only the parts available in one kit with some additional readily accessible low cost add-ons to make the printer.
Showcasing his prototype at his 7th grade school science fair, Shubham’s submission stated:
“After studying the Braille language; I understood that a visually impaired individual feels through his/her fingers the bumps on a paper through a combination of 6 dots. If we could make a printer that prints (by making holes in a paper) as a mirror image of the letter and when flipping the page we should be able to translate letters into BRAILLE. I used rapid prototyping concepts where I tried to build models and programing it to see if I am able to get the desired results. I had to build and break 7 different models before settling on a final one that was able to print the six dots in a desired sequence according to the Braille standards. After which, I programmed the letters A-Z. I used a normal calculator paper to provide the proof of concept.”
Shubham estimates his DIY model costs $350. He has given away the design and software as open source. The building instructions are available via his YouTube channel and the software files are uploaded on the Lego Mindstorms Community page.
Now a student at San Jose’s Champion School, Shubham founded Braigo Labs in 2014 with his mother, Malini Banerjee as president and his father Niloy (Neil) on the Board of Directors. In the same year at the Intel Developer Forum, Braigo Labs attracted venture capital funding, making Shubham Banerjee the youngest founder in history to receive venture capital investment. He was 13 at the time.
On being listed on Forbes List of 18 under 18 Shubham said the best advice he’s ever received was “Be humble,” and “Innovate for the right reasons — money is not one of them.”
- Braigo Labs
- Shubham Branerjee from Baigo Labs at Intel Capital 2014 Video
- Shubham’s personal website
- Braigo on Wikipedia