When Shubham Banerjee's mother vetoed his initial science fair project idea — an experiment involving colored lights and plant growth — saying he could do better, the then 12-year-old was forced to get creative.
Banerjee empathized when he and a friend closed their eyes in attempts to navigate the world as if they were blind. "We couldn't walk more than five seconds without thinking there was a pole in front of us," he said. He knew there must be a better way to help the blind see. "I felt like they should not pay over $1,000 just to get what they need to become literate." So he got to work building a better, more affordable braille printer using an unlikely material:Lego Mindstorms EV3.
Despite using his entire summer vacation to craft the $350 Braigo, Banerjee knew the machine needed a "better brain." So he built a second version using Intel Edison technology and Python code. "The Edison didn't cost too much, and it had built-in wireless, which was super important," Banerjee explained. "I needed the printer to easily communicate directly with the computer."
Banerjee also appreciated the Edison's size, performance and Bluetooth capabilities. When he finished putting the pieces altogether, however, the real reward came from watching other kids use the printer. "Henry [Wedler] tested both my products," Benerjee said. "I printed out, 'Hello, my name is Shubham,' and he could read that perfectly. That was just amazing, and seeing that it really worked...was just the best feeling." It also inspired him to keep working and innovating.
"When I saw the braille dots that came out, I started Braigo Labs, a company dedicated to developing 'humanely optimized' technologies that offer affordable solutions to life's most critical problems."