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Challenge Center Unleashes Inner Engineers

This article appeared in the January 23, 2015 edition of the Davis Enterprise.

 

By Lisa Justice

Special to the Enterprise

 

What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever made out of Legos? A doll house? Maybe a toy car? What about a sofa you can actually sit on? Or how about a fully functional record player or chain saw?

 

People are using the ubiquitous child’s toy to make all kinds of useful things, but last year a seventh-grade science fair project may have topped them all. Twelve-year-old Shubham Banerjee used a Lego Mindstorms kit to build a Braille typewriter.

 

After learning that typical Braille typewriters, used to create print material that can be tactilely read by the blind and visually impaired, cost upwards of $2000, Banerjee wondered if he could use more familiar materials to design a less costly one. Cheaper Braille typewriters could make the written word more widely accessible, especially in the developing world.

 

So Banerjee adapted an existing printer design with some hardware and software modifications, a keyboard and a thumbtack to punch the bumps into the paper. That’s how the Braigo machine was born.

 

But Banerjee hasn’t stopped there. He’s continued to upgrade his design by adapting traditional desktop printers to make the Braigo more efficient and even more affordable.

 

He’s now thirteen and has started his own company, Braigo Labs, to hopefully perfect the design and begin mass-producing them. His ingenuity has paid off by attracting the attention of tech companies like Intel that have invested in Braigo Labs to help Banerjee hire a team of engineers.

 

Beyond the commercial success that looks like it’s coming Banerjee’s way, the Braigo machine has the potential to change the world in a positive way. At Explorit Science Center, we encourage the kind of thoughtful innovation that isn’t satisfied with the status quo. And we’re big believers in using everyday materials to do extraordinary things.

 

That’s the whole philosophy behind our Challenge Center, an engineering and design lab open to the public where you can tackle a design challenge such as building a bridge or constructing a catapult with recycled materials.

 

Maybe you’ll find some toilet paper tubes or yogurt cups. Maybe there will be cereal boxes and produce baskets. These plus scissors, masking tape and your imagination could be the raw materials for something amazing.

 

The Challenge Center is open Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Fridays, 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. alongside our museum exhibition, and is free with paid admission to the museum. Check it out at your next visit and discover what you can create!

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Explorit’s coming events:

 

  • Explorit’s Beautiful World: Science and Art exhibition is open to the public every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, 1:00-5:00 p.m. and every Friday, 3:00-6:00 p.m.  Admission is $5.00 per person; Explorit members, teachers and children 2 and under are free.

·      Next Explorit Talk: February 9th at 7pm in the DMG Mori auditorium on 2nd St. Further details to follow.

·      Interested in helping out the community through board membership? Explorit is currently seeking individuals in the community to serve as members of our volunteer board. Please call or email for additional information on how to apply.

  • Cap off your Picnic Day with Explorit at Sudwerk Brewing Company Dock Store for a fundraiser on Saturday, April 18. Details coming soon!
  • Interested in membership?  Think your Explorit membership may have lapsed?  Call Explorit at 530-756-0191 to check or sign up!
  • Birthdays are back at Explorit!  Call Explorit at 530-756-0191 for more information or to book your party.

 

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Explorit Science Center is located at 3141 5th St. For more information call (530) 756-0191 or visit http://www.explorit.org, or “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/explorit.fb.

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