Carnegie Mellon University TechBridgeWorld
Automated Braille Writing Tutor: Seeking to improve literacy among visually impaired youth

About     Version 1     Version 2     DownloadsNew!   Acknowledgements     Contact

- Assistive Educational Technology Website -

Version 2

Given the success of the field study, the braille writing tutor project has now evolved into a fully-fledged TechBridgeWorld project with other students, faculty, and staff continuing the technical research and development, investigating business models for its distribution, and exploring other potential partners.

Photo of prototype of second version of braille tutor hardware.
Photo of second version of braille tutor hardware.
Close up photo of usb improvement to second version of braille tutor.

After the initial field study with the Mathru School for the Blind near Bangalore, India the researchers incorporated the feedback from teachers and students at the Mathru School into revised versions of the tutor's hardware and software.

  • Based on recommendations from the field study, Ph.D. student Tom Lauwers redesigned the hardware of the braille tutor. Some of the improvements included incorporating buttons representing one large braille cell for early learners, making the stylus wireless, and changing the computer connection to a usb cable.

  • Nidhi Kalra developed revisions to the software in collaboration with Robotics master's student Jeremy Stolarz.

  • A team of public policy and management graduate students affiliated with Carnegie Mellon’s Institute for Social Innovation focused on the potential social entrepreneurship aspects of the project through a course project.

  • Research with the braille tutor also expanded to Carnegie Mellon University's Qatar campus where Computer Science undergraduate student Noura El-Moughny has added Arabic braille tutoring capability to the tutor. Noura received support from the Qatar National Research Fund's Undergraduate Research Experience Program and was advised by faculty member M. Bernardine Dias. Noura’s research poster entitled “Assistive Technology for Writing Braille” was also selected as the Best Poster for Computer Science during the Qatar campus’ Meeting of the Minds in Spring 2007.

  • In the Summer of 2007 Computer Science undergraduate student Daniel Dewey developed a second version of the braille tutor software in Pittsburgh. Daniel was supported by the Intel First Year Research Experience grant and was co-advised by faculty member M. Bernardine Dias and Robotics Ph.D. student Tom Stepleton. Tom Stepleton produced a large library for tutor/computer interaction on which future applications can be developed.

  • Noura El-Moughny's UREP work led to a senior thesis on "Assistive Technology for Writing Braille" which she completed in Spring 2008 with faculty member M. Bernardine Dias as her advisor. She recieved Carnegie Mellon's prestigious School of Computer Science Alumni Award for Undergraduate Excellence as a result of her thesis work. Noura gave an update on her work with the braille tutor at the 2008 Meeting of the Minds in Doha and won Best Computer Science Project and Best Poster.

  • In Spring 2008, Computer Science undergraduate student Kaleem Rahman performed an independent study to implement the capability for basic mathematical symbols into the braille tutor software.

    Noura El-Moughny with her award-winning poster at the 2007 Meeting of the Minds in Doha.
    Student Saurabh Sanghvi working with teacher at Mathru School.
    Mathru student explores the new version of the braille tutor.
    Carnegie Mellon students Aysha Siddique, Ermine Teves, Saurabh Sanghvi and Kaleem Rahman at Microsoft Research India.
    Mathru teacher explores the newest version of the braille tutor.
    Mathru teacher assists two students in using the braille tutor.
    Mathru student explores the braille tutor. Mathru student explores the braille tutor.

  • In summer 2008, Carnegie Mellon undergraduate students Kaleem Rahman, Aysha Saddique, and Saurabh Sanghvi, along with recent graduate Ermine Teves worked in collaboration with Microsoft Research India and The Mathru School for the Blind near Bangalore. In addition to working with other technology-related projects, their primary objective was to field test the newest version of the braille writing tutor. This experience was possible through a summer internship program at Microsoft Research India facilitated by Carnegie Mellon’s TechBridgeWorld group in collaboration with the Technology Consulting in the Global Community summer program.

  • Through the non-profit organization ProjectEDUCATE, the project expanded to a new partnership with the Sefula School for the Visually Impaired in Mongu, Zambia. Faculty M. Bernardine Dias and staff Sarah Belousov and Freddie Dias traveled to Mongu in summer 2008 to meet with the headmaster and teachers at the school to introduce the braille tutor.

  • In summer 2009, a team of Carnegie Mellon undergraduate and graduate students participated with TechBridgeWorld's inaugural iSTEP 2009 internship program in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in collaboration with the University Computing Centre located at the University of Dar es Salaam. The team customized the braille tutor's use for Tanzanian students in partnership with the Uhuru Mchanganyiko School.

  • In summer 2010, a team of Carnegie Mellon undergraduate and graduate students participated with TechBridgeWorld's iSTEP 2010 internship program in Chittagong, Bangladesh in collaboration with Asian University for Women. The team focused on extending the braille tutor's use in Chittagong in partnership with the non-governmental organization Young Power in Social Action. The Chittagong School for the Blind also provided feedback on the braille tutor during this summer research work.

  • We are currently incorporating feedback from partners in the United States, Qatar, Bangladesh, India, Tanzania and Zambia to make new enhancements to the braille tutor's hardware and software. 

    Freddie Dias introduces the braille tutor to Sefula's headmaster and one of the teachers with ProjectEDUCATE coordinator Nengela Ngula.
    Sefula headmaster and teachers with TechBridgeWorld faculty and staff M. Bernardine Dias and Freddie Dias.
    Sefula teacher tries out the braille tutor.

Publications and Conference Participation

"iSTEP Tanzania 2009: Inaugural Experience" by Rotimi Abimbola, Hatem Alismail, Sarah M. Belousov, Beatrice Dias, Malcolm Frederick Dias, M. Bernardine Dias, Imran Fanaswala, Bradley Hall, Daniel Nuffer, Ermine A. Teves, Jessica Thurston, and Anthony Velazquez. Technical Report CMU-RI-TR-09-33, Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, August 2009.

"Design of a braille writing tutor to combat illiteracy" by N. Kalra, T. Lauwers, D. Dewey, T. Stepleton, and M.B. Dias. Information Systems Frontier Journal, Volume 11, Number 2, April 2009.

"Assistive Computing Technology for Learning to Write Braille" by Noura El-Moughny. Senior Undergraduate Thesis at Carnegie Mellon University, advised by faculty member M. Bernardine Dias.

“Iterative Design of A Braille Writing Tutor” by Tom Lauwers, Nidhi Kalra, M. Bernardine Dias, Daniel Dewey, and Tom Stepleton. Presented at the 2007 IEEE/ACM International Conference on Information and Communications Technology and Development (ICTD2007) held in Bangalore, India, December 15-16, 2007.

"A Braille Writing Tutor to Combat Illiteracy in Developing Communities" by N. Kalra, T. Lauwers, and M.B. Dias. AI in ICT for Development Workshop, Twentieth International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, January 2007.

Media Articles

"Interns in Bangladesh: Developing Educational Technologies" Carnegie Mellon homepage, Summer 2010

"Automated Tutor for Visually Impaired Children" QNRF Newsletter - Issue No. 2, November 2009

"TechBridgeWorld iSTEP" Carnegie Mellon homepage, Summer 2009

"Research internship for CMU-Q students" The Peninsula, July 22, 2009

"Automated tutor for impaired children" QNRF Newsletter - Issue No. 1, May 2009

"Qatar project spreads light of learning" Gulf Times, March 22, 2009

"A Step in the Right Direction"Carnegie Mellon homepage, Fall 2008

"Technology Helps the Visually Impaired" by Keith Mehalek, The Tartan, November 17, 2008

"Students Test Updated Braille Writing Tutor in Bangalore" by Byron Spice, The Piper, October 2008

"Empowering Technologies for the Developing World" by Erica Naone, Technology Review Online Interview with M. Bernardine Dias, September 24, 2007.

"Talking Braille: A new tool to teach blind children" by Supriya Kumar, SciDev.Net, October 11, 2007

"A Vision for the Future" by Andrea Zrimsek, Akhbar Newsletter: a publication of Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, November 2007


  • Ameer Abdulsalam, Computer Science Research Programmer, CMU-Q
  • Sarah Belousov, Project Manager, TechBridgeWorld, CMU
  • Vashkar Bhattacharjee, DAISY Focal Point, Young Power in Social Action
  • Shumana Chowdhury, Undergraduate Student, Asian University for Women
  • Yonina Cooper, Computer Science Professor, CMU-Q and Associate Director, TechBridgeWorld
  • Daniel Dewey, Computer Science Graduate, CMU, Class of 2009
  • M. Beatrice Dias, Engineering and Public Policy Ph.D. Student, CMU
  • M. Bernardine Dias, Robotics Institute Assistant Research Professor, TechBridgeWorld Founder & Director, V-Unit Coordinator, Project Advisor, CMU and CMU-Q
  • M. Freddie Dias, Robotics Institute Research Engineer, TechBridgeWorld Technical Consultant, CMU
  • Amal El-Ghazaly, Electrical and Computer Engineering Undergraduate Student, CMU
  • Noura El-Moughny, Computer Science Graduate, CMU-Q, Class of 2008
  • Imran Fanaswala, Computer Science Research Programmer, CMU-Q
  • Hend Gedawy, former Computer Science Research Assistant, CMU-Q
    and Computer Science Graduate Student, CMU
  • Wael Ghazzawi, former Computer Science Research Programmer, CMU-Q
  • Bradley Hall, Mechanical Engineering Undergraduate Student, CMU, Class of 2010
  • Jen Horwitz, Public Policy and Management Graduate Student, CMU, Class of 2011
  • Pengfei Li, Computer Science Undergraduate Student, CMU
  • Brian Manalastas, Business Administration Undergraduate, CMU-Q, Class of 2011
  • Jonathan Muller, Information Systems Management Graduate Student, Class of 2010
  • Lutfun Nahar, Undergraduate Student, Asian University for Women
  • Kaleem Rahman, Computer Science Graduate, Class of 2010
  • Saurabh Sanghvi, Electrical and Computer Engineering Graduate, Class of 2010
  • Aysha Siddique, Computer Science Graduate, Class of 2010
  • Tom Stepleton, Robotics Institute Ph.D. Student
  • Jeremy Stolarz, Robotics Institute Master's Graduate, Class of 2007
  • Ermine Teves, Business Administration Graduate, Class of 2008
  • Anthony Velázquez, Computer Science Graduate, Class of 2010
Back to Top