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LEGO building sets have been stretching kids imaginations for years. They have not only been a wonderful toy to entertain, but an amazing tool for teaching. Now, a 12 year old boy has used LEGOs to help those in need.
Shubham Banerjee is a 7th grade student from Santa Clara, California. One day, Shubham came across a flyer asking for donation to help the blind. This started him thinking about how blind people are able to read. As most children of Shubham’s age would do, he asked his parents. Rather than giving Shubham the answer, they encouraged him to do his own research. Using the internet to begin his investigation, Shubham soon learned about Braille. During his search, he discovered that Braille printers cost a couple thousand dollars. That is a huge leap from the printers the general public can buy for under a hundred dollars. Shubham then thought he might be able to use his LEGOs to build something helpful.
Shubham took his toy LEGO Mindstorms EV3 building set and created a working Braille printer. Constructing a functional Braille printer out of LEGOs is impressive by itself, but the real world application made this LEGO builder’s creation even more impressive. A Braille printer can cost around $2,000.00. The Mindstorm EV3 has a retail value of $349.00 and Shubham only had to buy about $5.00 worth of extra parts. The world now has access to a Braille Printer that cost under $400.00. Rather than getting rich of his invention, Shubham is going to release his design and programming online as an open-source. This way anyone can access and build their own printer free of charge. Of course, people will still have to buy the parts, but perhaps this will lead bigger companies to make their own affordable Braille printers for those who don’t have a few extra thousand dollars lying around.
This amazing machine is called the Braigo, a combination of the words Braille and LEGO. The Braigo is currently programmed to print the letters A through Z in Braille and Shubham has plans to expand the program to include the numbers 1 to 10. It takes about seven seconds for the Braigo to print a letter. What does LEGO think of how their product was utilized? They could not be more pleased and released a tweet saying, "We're very proud. Impressive work for a great cause!"
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are 285 million visually impaired people in the world. It is believed that 90% of these individuals are living in developing countries. The Braigo’s ability to create an affordable Braille printer is paving a path to bringing modern computer technology to millions of visually impaired people.
Shubham Banerjee may not be in high school yet, but in a CNN interview he is claiming to already have people contacting about job opportunities. His dream right now is to become a doctor, scientist or engineer. With the invention of the Braigo, he is already on the path to all three. Shubham’s heroes are Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, but I imagine these individuals might think the same thing about him.
Braigo - Braille Printer Made From Lego Mindstorms EV3 (Demonstration)
In this video, Shubham Banerjee demonstrates how the Braigo works by printing the letter Y. He then has his sister help show how easy the printer is to use by spelling the word “cat”.
BRAIGO - how to build the print head
Shubham Banerjee created this video to show people how to build the print head. It is a slideshow of still pictures.
LEGO Mindstorms EV3
The LEGO Mindstorms EV3 31313 building set was released in September of 2013. It contains 601 pieces and was designed for kids 10 and up. (Good thing Shubham Banerjee is 12 year old.) The EV3 allows you to build your own robot. This working robot has motors and sensors allowing it to move, but it is the programmable software that brings it to life and lets people take command. The intuitive software allows you to have your creation walk, talk and move using a programmable brick or your smart device.