When Shubham Banerjee found out how much Braille printers can cost, he decided to build one that would be less expensive to make. For his seventh-grade science fair, he created the “Braigo,” a Braille printer made from parts of a Lego(R) robot-building kit and a few other items.
The 12-year-old inventor from Santa Clara, California, got curious about what life is like for blind people after seeing a flyer from a group that helps the visually impaired. “I asked my dad, ‘How do blind people read?,’” Shubham explained to NBCBayArea.com, and his dad told him to Google it. That’s how he found out about Braille, the language of raised dots that people read with their fingertips. It’s also how he learned that Braille printers can cost $2,000 or more.
It took Shubham a month and seven tries before he got the design right. His first Braigo works by using the controller to scroll through the alphabet and pick the letter you want to print. When you choose the letter, a thumbtack creates raised dots on a narrow roll of paper.
Pretty basic, but Shubham’s invention was still a hit at the science fair — and in the tech world. His success inspired him to found Braigo Labs, Inc., to continue his goal of finding alternative ways to design helpful technology that costs less to produce, so more people can use it. He plans to make his Braigo design and software open-source, meaning that anyone can use them, for free, to build their own printer.
At the Intel Developers Forum in September 2014, Shubham showed off the Braigo 2.0, an updated model that uses less energy and can do more things, like automatically print out news headlines every morning. Intel must have been impressed because, after Shubham’s demonstration, the computer chip maker announced it will invest in his company! Now he’s one step closer to making his dream of marketing the Braigo a reality.