The 12 Year Old Kid With The ‘Brailliant’ Idea

Lego – probably one of the most played with children’s toys of all time. It has spanned across generations, and it’s still not passed its sell-by-date. It’s a timeless toy that puts no limit on your imagination, and for one young boy, the source of inspiration for his new creation that could change the lives of visually impaired people all over the world.

Who is this boy?Banerjee

His name is Shubham Banerjee, a 13 year old,seventh grader from California who is unlike many other young boys his age. He is curious about the world and wants to make it better for disadvantaged people. While thinking of ideas for his school science fair project,  he noticed a flyer about the visually impaired that had been popped through his letterbox. He asked his Dad how visually impaired people read. His Dad simply replied “Google it”, and so he did.

After searching on Google, Banerjee soon found information about Braille printers, and in-particular, how expensive they were. Assistive technologies like Braille Printers can cost up to $2000 and therefore can be incredibly difficult to obtain. WHO reports that there are actually 285 million visually impaired people worldwide and 90% of them live in developing countries. So, based on this information, Banerjee endeavoured to find a cheaper way of making Braille printers for the disadvantaged, and thought up an idea that, surprisingly, nobody had thought of – using Lego to make a Braille Printer.

The concept

Banerjee had to build and break 7 models before he  decided which one to use. The final prototype combines the Lego Mindstorms EV3 kit with other readily available pieces of kit. He took a pre-existing coding for a printer and changed it to allow it to print Braille. The result is called BRAIGO. The BRAIGO scrolls the alphabet and chooses a letter, then prints it out using bumps on a roll of till receipt paper. At the moment it prints one letter every 5 seconds, but Banerjee says that he’s working on making a better, faster version and has enlisted the help of his Dad’s friends, who are Mechanical Engineers.
Lego Braille Printer

If this idea is successful, he will have slashed the price of Braille Printers from $2000 to $350, making it much more cost effective. He will have also created something with £350 worth of Lego that people 3 times his age, with masters’ degrees in engineering, and hundreds of thousands of dollars couldn’t.

The idea doesn’t end there either. Banerjee has bigger plans and wants to make his idea open-source so people anywhere can create their own BRAIGO’s. His hope is that it will be particularly useful in developing places where they simply can’t afford a printer. He says DIY is the key, as he hopes to introduce the concept as a buildable kit. He wants buildable printers to be readily available in stores and online. He also wants the kits to be compact and self-explanatory, and every material needed to operate the BRAIGO should be included in the kit.

Some people have been skeptical about BRAIGO but Banerjee says:

The public reaction to the idea is enough proof…anyone who saw the models in action immediately understood how useful they could be in real life.

Regardless of BRAIGO’s success, this story will undoubtedly resonate around the world. Banerjee is a talented young boy who is passionate about what he’s doing, which is very inspiring for everyone, not just young people. What’s even better is that he’s giving away his idea for free. When asked why he isn’t selling his idea he replied:

I want to give away the design and code for free…I am not a company or selling a totally new revolutionary product. I came up with a concept, so that others can take it further…

We could be waiting a while for the release of BRAIGO but you can get your hands on the toy that started it all, the Lego Mindstorms EV3 from Toys R Us and most other toy stores.