By Erin Hassanzadeh

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota State Services for the Blind creates textbooks in braille for students across the state.

One textbook can cost $25 thousand to produce in a braille format. But those expensive master copies are currently vulnerable and not backed up.

In one year, Minnesota State Services for the Blind produces 450 thousand braille pages. Many of them have tactile images on them, but only have one master copy. So they turned to St. Thomas engineering students to solve that problem.

After years of hard work, these students created a laser scanner that will digitize all of the state’s braille textbook documents.

“I call them little works of art some of them are very complex like maps or biological diagrams,” said Allison O’Day, a braille specialist for the Minnesota State Services for the Blind. “If there was ever a fire or a flood or some sort of disaster we would lose all of those its like an art museum having a fire and losing all their artworks.”

But those worries are now over.

“The ability of these students to capture those images digitally eliminates that risk entirely,” said Dr. Tiffany Ling, from the UST school of engineering.

“Next week when we’re done handing in our assignments and things like that, we’ll be able to bring this over to them and they’ll be able to start,” said Henry Martinson, a UST senior who worked on the project.

The three electrical engineering students on the project, Charlie Lundquist, Henry Martinson and Meheret Tadesse are now full-fledged creators.

Taking a project and creating a final product that will make a lasting impact.

“I could not be more proud,” Martinson said.

The next step will be developing a way to print the digital images that these students were able to create.

Erin Hassanzadeh

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