If you've ever needed a surefire way to impress a professor
, besting his estimates by 80 percent on a project is probably a safe bet. Four mechanical engineering students at The Johns Hopkins University were tasked with developing a simple tool to write in Braille
for less than $50, and no electronic components could be used; their portable writing invention checked in at around $10 apiece when mass produced. Typically, computer-assisted and typewriter-style composition is quite costly and isn't very practical for, say, busy blind
professionals trying to write on-the-go. Braille letters are traditionally formed by creating up to six impressions -- better known as bumps -- into sequenced cells that form words. The students' writer has six buttons with corresponding pins that can be depressed simultaneously, which makes filling in cells substantially quicker than the traditional "one bump at a time" method. The team recently presented the device to the National Federation of the Blind where board members saw a great deal of promise for the handheld tool, and although commercialization plans have yet to be envisioned, this advancement in Braille transcription is definitely an eye-opener.