CCNY Student Entrepreneurs Win at Maker Faire New York

Dynamic Braille team members Joe Borello [l.] and Jeremy Cortez with the Editor’s Choice Blue Ribbon won by the CCNY entry at World Maker Faire New York 2013.

An innovative design for a low-cost refreshable braille display akin to a Kindle for the blind won a team of City College of New York students the Editor’s Choice Blue Ribbon at World Maker Faire New York 2013, held September 21 – 22 at the New York Hall of Science in the Corona neighborhood of Queens.

The students, senior biomedical engineering major Joe Borrello and Sankha Ghatak, senior electrical engineering major Jeremy Cortez and senior film and video major Sullivan Fleming, were cited for demonstrating great creativity, ingenuity and innovation for their project, Dynamic Braille, which placed second in the inaugural Kaylie Prize for Entrepreneurship at CCNY in 2011.

Both Mr. Borrello and Mr. Ghatak are enrolled in CCNY’s Macaulay Honors College.

Dynamic Braille’s concept entails using opposing electrical charges to distort a thin polymer film. The team envisions a field of “braille cells,” each made up of six tiny pins that would touch the film from below to create a raised pattern of dots to form braille letters. The resulting e-reader-like device for the blind could display a page worth of refreshable digital text, much as a Kindle or Nook functions for the sighted.

The Dynamic Braille team proved to the Maker Faire judges that its technology could make the final product at a low cost, noted Dr. Haytham Elhawary, director of the Zahn Innovation Center at City College. “They established proof of concept and proved that the technology works. Now they have to integrate it into a refreshable Braille display that can allow a page to be renewed.”

Maker Faire, which brands itself “the Greatest Show and Tell on Earth,” is a festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness started in 2006. It is sponsored by Maker Media, the publisher of “MAKE” magazine and the producer of “do-it-yourself” electronics, tools and kits. This year’s event drew more than 650 participants, including seven teams from the Zahn Center.

About the Zahn Innovation Center
The Zahn Innovation Center is a startup incubator for technology-enabled companies, with a focus on hardware startups. The resources of the center are focused on helping these startups address the unique challenges associated with prototype development, product design and manufacturing. Additionally, it provides mentorship, business acumen and community connections for its companies. The Zahn Center is situated at The City College of New York campus, and aims to support entrepreneurs from the New York City community at large as well as City College’s faculty, staff and student entrepreneurs as they transform their ideas into startup companies.

About The City College of New York
Since 1847, The City College of New York has provided low-cost, high-quality education for New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines. More than 16,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in: the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture; the School of Education; the Grove School of Engineering; the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education, and the Colin L. Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership.

Set on a striking, 35-acre hilltop campus in upper Manhattan, CCNY has produced more Nobel laureates than any other public institution in the United States. The College has been touted as one of America’s Top Colleges by Forbes, one of the Best Colleges in the United States as well as one of the Best Value Colleges by the Princeton Review, and ranks among U.S. News’ top regional universities.


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