Tinkering for a Cause: 12-Year-Old Builds Affordable Braille Printer from Legos
By Lenny Pierce on February 17, 2014
Are you smarter than a 7th grader? In this case of Shubham Banerjee, few of us can say yes. For his school’s science fair, Banerjee used the pieces available in the LEGO Mindstorms EV3 kit (and a few items from the hardware store) to build a Braille printer he has named Braigo. Braille printers typically cost upwards of $2000, but with one LEGO kit and a lot of creativity, Banerjee managed to pull it off for just over $350.
The 12-year old took a pre-existing printer pattern and tweaked both the software and hardware to make it print in Braille. The machine’s interface – which is usually used to control the LEGO Mindstorm robots – was set up to move through the alphabet, allowing you to select letters one by one. After selecting a letter, the Braigo uses a thumbtack to punch the appropriate bumps into the printer paper. At present, the prototype works slowly, but I suspect a faster working model is on its way.
The interface of the Braigo is the same one used in all of the Mindstorm EV3 designs to make a constructed robot walk, talk, and manipulate objects. This is cooler. (Neil Banerjee)
The video below shows Banerjee explaining how Braigo works. He was even nice enough to include his enthusiastic little sister (I’m guessing) in the demonstration as his assistant. It’s a little tough to see the actual Braille bumps printed on the sheet, but I suppose visibility isn’t really the point here, is it?
Banerjee has programmed the printer to print characters A-Z, and his next goal is to program it for numbers. No word on whether or not printing Braille emojis is on the list of objectives as well. Regardless, what Banerjee has done here is a truly impressive technological achievement, or as his little sister said more succinctly, “cool”.
The Lego Mindstorm EV3 set has plans for five different forms of fully functional robots all controlled by the same interface. Most kids (including myself) would be content just playing by the rules with a toy this cool, but as The LEGO Movie showed us, sometimes ditching the instructions can have profound results.
Banerjee’s machine is a huge step forward in making Braille printing more affordable for the visually impaired all over the world. Banerjee hopes that this type of technology could be used in the developing world where current Braille printers are far too expensive. Check out Braigo’s Facebook page for updates on this project.