Carnegie Mellon University

Braille Writing Tutor

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A Step in the Right Direction

A teacher assists a student at the Mathru School in using the newest version of the Braille Writing Tutor.

Four Carnegie Mellon students from two sides of the globe came together this summer hoping to make a difference. They spent 10 weeks in Bangalore, India, working with the Mathru School for the Blind.

Their experience was made possible through the collaboration of Carnegie Mellon's TechBridgeWorld — a research group bringing technology to the developing world; Microsoft Research India; the Technology Consulting in the Global Community summer program; Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar; and the Mathru School for the Blind in India.

Two of the undergraduates, Kaleem Rahman and Saurabh Sanghvi, concentrated their efforts on field testing and improving TechBridgeWorld's unique Braille Writing Tutor.

In both the developed and the developing world, the visually-impaired have generally relied on a rudimentary slate and punch stylus to write in braille. For the page to be read correctly when flipped over, they needed to learn to "write" mirror images of the letters from right to left. This is a difficult process for children to learn, especially with delayed feedback.

The Braille Writing Tutor uses a digital slate and stylus that interfaces with a computer. It provides immediate audio feedback, announcing the letters formed and whether they are correct.

Rahman, a Carnegie Mellon student in Qatar majoring in computer science, and Sanghvi, majoring in electrical and computer engineering in Pittsburgh, created two new games for the Tutor.

The games allow children to practice their skills while having fun. They also developed software capable of translating visual images to tactile ones using a braille embosser.

"This past summer was definitely one of my greatest experiences," Sanghvi explained. "One of the greatest feelings was seeing our solutions being used by the school — and already having noticeable impact."

The other two Carnegie Mellon students were busy developing solutions for the school using existing technologies. Ermine Teves, a recent grad of the Tepper School of Business, and Aysha Siddique, a computer science major in Qatar, created a much-needed website and computerized record-keeping system.

Teves discovered TechBridgeWorld while looking for a campus job during her junior year. She was so impressed by the organization and her summer experience that she recently began a full-time position as their project assistant.

"I did this work at the Mathru school because I thought it was a step in the right direction," Teves said. "My main goal in life is to help people."

Related Links: Braille Writing Tutor  |  TechBridgeWorld  |  Become a Partner