These days, it’s not unusual to meet a teenager with a head full of marketable ideas. Unlike some enterprising youngsters, however, Shubham Banerjee isn’t on a quest for fame or fortune. The 12 year-old California seventh grader has a unique understanding of technology’s power to create positive change in the world, and if his recent science fair project is any indication, we can expect big things from his brain. Rather than develop yet another baking soda volcano, Banerjee used a Lego Mindstorms EV3 kit and a few bucks worth of hardware from Home Depot to create a working Braille printer that costs a fraction of similar gadgets currently on the market. Keep reading to find out how he did it and why.
“According to WHO reports, there are estimated 285 million visually impaired people worldwide and 90 percent of which lives in developing countries,” writes Banerjee’s father in the blog post that introduced his invention to the world. “At this moment the cost of a braille printer is more than $2,000 for a basic version, thus many millions of people across the world have limited access.”
The youngster viewed this high cost as a barrier to those who could really benefit from owning such a device, so for his science fair project he decided to build a better one for less.
Banerjee started with a Lego Mindstorms EV3 kit, which includes the base reference model known as Banner Print3r and new software to print letters A-Z. This particular kit retails for about $350, and Banerjee added about $5 worth of hardware from his local Home Depot to complete the design. After making (and breaking) seven models, he finally got one working, which he called BRAIGO v1.0.
“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,” reports CNET.
According to his father, Banerjee “wishes to make this project open source (and has already started to upload the concepts) with the design and software readily available for public consumption free of charge. Thus giving a new tool in the hands of blind institutions or even parents with visually impaired children to use this printer at a 80 percent savings from commercially available products out there in the market.”
Learn more about the inspiration for this conceptual project on BRAIGO’s Facebook Page.
All images via Shubham Banerjee