Kids, News, Technology

Boy Invents Cheaper Braille Printer Using Lego

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Inventor, Shubham Banarjee.
Inventor, Shubham Banerjee.

A 12-year-old boy has invented a Braille printer that costs about $1,650 less than the ones that are available today.

Shubham Banerjee is in grade seven in Santa Clara, California.

He used a Lego Mindstorms kit and added five dollars’ worth of parts he bought at a hardware store to create what he calls a Braigo (Braille + Lego).

His Braigo costs about $349 to make.

People who are sight-impaired (who are blind or who cannot see well enough to read a book) can use Braille to “read” using their fingers. Braille uses raised dots to represent letters. People can feel the bumps with their fingers and, if they know Braille, will understand what the raised dots say.

Banerjee’s printer turns letters into Braille dots. This is known as “Braille embossing.”

According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 285 million sight-impaired people in the world and 90 per cent of them live in developing countries, where they may not have much money. For them, a $2,000 Braille printer is not affordable.

The Braigo.
The Braigo.

Banerjee said he got the idea for his printer last December when he saw a flyer asking for donations to “help the blind.” He asked his mother how blind people read and after he Googled it, he found out about Braille.

He said he has loved Lego since he was three years old.

He said his dad, who is an engineer, helped him whenever he had questions as he was designing his Braigo.

He said he will make improvements to his invention in the future.

For instance, it takes five to seven seconds for the Braigo to print a letter. He wants to improve the speed of his machine.

He said he plans to put his design for the printer and its software onto the Internet, where he hopes people will freely share the information and improve his design to make it better.

Banerjee said he wants to translate The Hunger Games (book) into Braille using his Braigo.

Banerjee told CBC Radio that he also intends to set up a non-profit company so he can put his and his friends’ other ideas into action.

Watch Banerjee’s Braigo in action:

By Kathleen Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
Imagine what life is like for people who have sight-impairements. How could the Braigo change the lives of people who are sight-impaired? Think of all of the ways that this invention could affect people’s lives.

Reading Prompt: Text Features
What characteristics should an inventor possess? Why are these characteristics important? How does Banerjee demonstrate these characteristics?

Identify a variety of text features and explain how they help readers understand texts (OME, Reading: 2.3).

Extend understanding of texts by connecting the ideas in them to their own knowledge, experience, and insights, to other familiar texts, and to the world around them (OME, Reading: 1.6).

Extend understanding of texts by connecting the ideas in them to their own knowledge and experience, to other familiar texts, and to the world around them (OME, Reading: 1.6).

Grammar Feature: Braille
As explained in this article, Braille is another way to communicate. Raised dots communicate letters and they are ‘read’ when people move their finger across the letters.

Do some research into Braille. Figure out how you would write your name, where you live and your favourite food. Are grammar conventions such as commas, question marks and quotation marks used in Braille?