Boy Builds Braille Printer Out Of Lego

What do you get when you put a Lego robotics kit, basic tools and a creative mind together? A Braille printer. Shubham Banerjee, 12, talks to NPR's Scott Simon about his project to help the blind.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Shubham Banerjee has done something utterly remarkable: the seventh grader has used a $350 robotics kit made by Lego, plus some basic items from the hardware store, to build a braille printer. He calls his invention the BRAIGO - as in braille with Lego. And Mr. Banerjee joins us now from Santa Clara, California. Thanks so much for being with us.

SHUBHAM BANERJEE: Sure, no problem. It's a pleasure.

SIMON: Well, what inspired you to try and use a Lego kit to make a braille printer?

BANERJEE: First of all, I've been loving Legos since I was 2 years old. And so you know those flyers that come to your house that say help the blind people with donations, help the poor, right?

SIMON: Yeah.

BANERJEE: So, one of the flyers came to my parents and it said help the blind with donations. So then I just, out of curiosity, I just asked my parents how do blind people read? So, then I learned about braille and how it works and all the braille printers, how it can be very costly at times. So, then I thought it would actually be cool to combine my love with Legos and do something good with it. So, I actually did it. I made the braille printer out of Legos.

SIMON: Can you tell us how it works without giving away the genius of your invention?

BANERJEE: OK. Oh yeah, sure. So, it basically, it has three motors and each motor does its own cool thing. So, like motor B, it pulls the pin up and down so it can actually make holes. And motor A, it pushes the paper forward. And motor C, it makes the pin go right and left.

SIMON: So, for example, if you wanted to print the word cat, like your sister does in one of the YouTube videos we've seen, how would you do it?

BANERJEE: So, you would go to the brick, which is the heart of the robot, and there's up, down, left, right buttons that you can use. The first letter would have to be C. Then you click C and it'd print that out in braille.

SIMON: What do you hope happens to your invention now?

BANERJEE: I hope it actually helps people. And I'm going to make more improvements in the future.

SIMON: Well, Mr. Banerjee - and I feel you've invented something - I ought to call you Mr. Banerjee, any idea what you want to do in the future?

BANERJEE: I have a choice between engineer, surgeon or a scientist. And what I'm going for is engineer, sort of.

SIMON: It sounds like you're off to a wonderful start. Congratulations.

BANERJEE: Thank you.

SIMON: Well, you take care of yourself. It's been very good meeting you, Mr. Banerjee, OK.

BANERJEE: It's a pleasure. Thank you.

SIMON: Shubham Banerjee speaking with us from California. He is the inventor of the BRAIGO braille printer.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: This is NPR News.

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