by Gunner Masters
Many people carry dreams and ideas they hope will change the world. Once in a while by ingenuity or destiny, someone will achieve them. In 2014, a science fair project would propel one boy into the spotlight. Shubham Banerjee saw a flier asking for donations to the blind and asked his parents, “How do they read?”
They simply told him, “Google it”, so he did and found that the blind read using Braille. This reading system uses dots arranged in a rectangular cell, three dots high and two across, to form letters that the blind can read by touching them. Shubham continued his research and learned that Braille printers cost at least $2,000 or more. He decided that this was a problem he could solve.
“I wanted to create something that was a lot less costly and that was my motivation to build this,” Banerjee said.
With his inspiration and research, and the help of his father, Niloy; who is an engineer for Intel Corp., Shubham created a Braille printer using a Lego Mindstorms EV3 kit.
“I’ve been playing with Legos since I was two or three. I thought Legos because they were pretty easy to use and they were really affordable and you can find them anywhere,” he said.
Following the success of his printer, Shubham and his family launched Braigo Labs Inc. with an initial investment of $35,000 from his father. Shubham used the money to create the Braigo 2.0, a more advanced version of his original printer that uses a desktop printer and an Intel computer chip. It can translate electronic text into Braille before actually printing off a page.
In November 2014, Intel executives were impressed by Banerjee’s product and invested an undisclosed amount in his company. Braigo used the money to hire engineers and various advisors to develop Banerjee’s printers and expand the company.
“Right now we’re looking for the final design so we can release the product, but in the future we want to reduce the number of people who are illiterate in Braille an increase the amount of people who are blind or vision impaired to have a Braille printer,” he said. The printer Braigo is developing could cost about $350.
Currently Banerjee’s mother, Malini Banerjee, is serving as President of the company with his father, Niloy, serving as a mentor and coach to his son and sits on the Board of Directors.
“They make the decisions for me, but they’re really positive and know what’s best for me and what I should do,” he said to student media at Ball State before he spoke at the Letterman event.
Currently, Shubham is a freshman at Champion School in Santa Clara, California living a relatively normal life of a high school student playing sports and spending time with friends. “I don’t really talk about it at school at all. I play football in high school… but they didn’t know until one person found out randomly and then they told my friends and they all just went crazy. We just keep it real,” he explained.
Banerjee gave his closing thoughts for anyone striving to achieve a goal or dream. “My advice is to never give up and always ask questions. You need your parents for everything, definitely ask them for advice or criticism, but don’t be afraid to ask questions,” he said.