Shubham Banerjee didn’t know what Braille was until 2013, when his family received a flyer requesting donations to aid the blind. When the 13-year-old asked how blind people read, his father said, “Google it.”
That’s how Shubham learned about Braille, a system of raised dots that enables the 285 million blind and visually impaired people worldwide to read and write. But he also discovered how much Braille printers cost — $2,000 and up — which puts them out of reach for many people.
Shubham believes that “technological advances should help humanity and not become a burden because of cost.” So he used his love of Legos to build a Braille printer that would cost less than $500. With a Lego Mindstorms EV3 kit and a few supplies from a local hardware store, he developed a prototype and named it Braigo — a combination of the words “Braille” and “Lego.”
Shubham spent many late nights at the kitchen table tinkering with his invention, even though he wasn’t sure how it would be received. But, as he says, “If I didn’t try, I couldn’t know if I would succeed or fail.”
And succeed he did. He received positive feedback from a local center for the blind and has since traveled across the United States demonstrating Braigo, including at the White House Maker Faire in the summer of 2014. In September, Shubham became the youngest entrepreneur ever to receive funding when Intel decided to invest in his printer.
January 4 is World Braille Day, which celebrates the birth of Louis Braille, inventor of the system of raised dots. It’s also a reminder that more can be done to advance equal opportunity for the blind and visually impaired. Like Shubham, you too can make a difference. “If you think it can be done,” he says, “then it can probably be done.”