With just a few hours left to build a groundbreaking gadget, things weren’t going as smoothly as planned.
Six young women, all undergrad engineering students at MIT, had established a lofty goal: to create the first-ever affordable device that immediately translates printed text into Braille. The idea could prove revolutionary for the blind community, transforming how they read while also creating sorely needed opportunities for children with low or no vision.
But throughout the hectic, 15-hour MakeMIT hackathon last February, the women — competing as Team 100% Enthusiasm — were running into snags. The lines for hackathon participants to use the 3D printers were taking forever. The team laser-cut the wrong material for the casing. And the optical recognition software they wanted to use — crucial for the device to actually work — wasn’t turning up accurate translations of text.
“It turned out to be a lot harder than we thought,” says Charlene Xia, one of the team members.
With only 15 minutes left on the clock, they finally had a working prototype — albeit a crude one. The device was big and hastily taped together in places, with wires poking out and only a few pins for Braille characters.
“It was janky,” Xia says, laughing. “But it worked.”
It did indeed work, enough so to take first place in the hackathon. The device, dubbed Tactile, had been born.
A year later, Team 100% Enthusiasm has been renamed Team Tactile. The women are already making waves with their invention, both in terms of accessibility and advancing the visibility of women in tech.
But with a ways to go before Tactile hits the market, and big plans for the future, they’re really just getting started.
Click here to read the full story about Team Tactile on Mashable.
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