Rajeev Mylapalli, researcher, engineer and entrepreneur: technology with a human-centred approach to education and stress detection

Rajeev_©Rajeev Mylapalli

Rajeev Mylapalli comes from Anakapalli, a small town in South India. He left to go to university and work on various projects in India, Dubai, Chile and Turkey. As an engineer, he worked for the private and public sectors, and even co-founded a start-up. At the Learning Planet Institute, Rajeev has found a place where he can conduct his PhD research and build robots and programmes with a human-centred approach to education and stress detection. We met with him.

Contributing to the common good through technology 

Anakapalli is a small town in Andhra Pradesh, South India. This is where Rajeev Mylapalli grew up. His parents did not have a higher education and the family belongs to the « Mala » caste, one of the Scheduled Castes considered “untouchable”. « In small towns, you really feel the social pressure and the caste system, it’s very heavy.” Rajeev, his two sisters and his brother went to university. One of them is a doctor now, and the others hold managerial positions in private companies.

Rajeev did his bachelor’s degree in electronic and communication engineering in India, with an internship in Delhi in a start-up company. He then worked on the design of robots for education. As a young graduate, he headed  to Dubai. It was his  first time leaving his native country. « This first international experience was a key step in my development.

In Dubai, Rajeev worked as a research and development engineer for the Knowledge Hub, which aims to transform the traditional classroom into a dynamic environment for learners through new technologies. Rajeev designed educational robots and developed curricula on robotics for schools and colleges. He also created modules to gamify the classroom. “I felt like I was contributing the best I could.” Two years later, Rajeev put his technical skills to work for a technology company in Dubai, before setting up his own company with three other co-founders.

Promoting creativity, curiosity and knowledge for those who want to build their own technology

Naturally following Rajeev’s career path, Junkbot was born in 2014. The startup makes kits that allow young and old alike to create and build robots from scratch. « Our idea? Building robots should be as easy as doing a puzzle. Our kit promotes creativity, curiosity and knowledge for those who want to build their own technology, not just buy it.” Rajeev is delighted with this project, which is allowing him to deepen his knowledge of the education sector.

During this entrepreneurial experience, which lasted almost six years, Rajeev continued to travel and moved to Chile, where his project was spotted. There, he became an entrepreneur in residence, supported by a government programme. Rajeev also took the opportunity to volunteer with English Open Doors, teaching English to young Chileans. A keen hiker, he explored his new host country and created a connected T-shirt to combat posture problems, which can lead to muscle and joint pain.

There is no stopping Rajeev. He uses his technical know-how to build objects or technologies with an impact, to improve learning or contribute to the well-being and health of individuals. « I know how to build things. I use this talent to make a difference.« 

Rajeev_©Rajeev Mylapalli

Rajeev Mylapalli, researcher, engineer and entrepreneur: technology with a human-centred approach to education and stress detection
Rajeev at the MakerLab – Learning Planet Institute

In 2018, Rajeev also worked  with the government of Turkey, where he  contributed  to educational programmes on robots and programming. « It was much more conventional than my other experiences, but it was very interesting. And one day, my Turkish friends told me about an interdisciplinary programme in Paris, the CRI (now Learning Planet Institute).« 

There is no reason to fail here. You just explore and learn.

Rajeev then did his own research on the internet and asked around. “ “Sciences of Education”, “start-ups”, “learning sciences”, it all clicked! And I don’t regret it, I really feel at home here, it’s a cosy nest with an intellectual community of excellence.

At the Learning Planet Institute, Rajeev is doing a research internship, as part of  which he is developing a machine learning model to identify stress through different biomarkers. He is also designing wearable sensors to track physical stress postures. « The MakerLab team has been very supportive of my research. Roberto Toro and Kevin Lhoste give me great freedom. Here, there is no reason to fail. All we do is explore and learn.

Rajeev at the MakerLab - Prototype of the wearable device to help children with autism 

Technology with a human-centred approach to education and stress detection
Rajeev at the MakerLab – Prototype of the wearable device to help children with autism 

After addressing the issue of stress in other internships and at the MakerLab, Rajeev is now a student at the FIRE Doctoral School. His topic is the use of wearable devices and artificial intelligence to help people with neurodevelopmental disorders. Rajeev focuses in particular on children with autism, and seeks to identify their stressors and emotions. He works at the Learning Planet Institute, at the Pasteur Institute, and in connection with the Robert Debré Hospital, which has an educational centre on autism.

Rajeev relies on feedback from a committee of autistic children, parents and teachers, which allows him to better understand their experiences. « At the moment, I have set up two experiments: sensors to understand hand movements under stress – using a brain-computer interface; but also how to sit etc. when under stress.

Passionate about stress detection and reduction, Rajeev is happy to be working on the topic: « If my work has an influence on how to understand and quantify stress, it can have an impact on people’s mental and physical health, and I will have achieved my goal, » he says happily. As part of his PhD, he collaborates with the Instituto Medico Educativo (IME) Cours de Venise, which uses innovative methods in the classroom.

Rajeev has no shortage of ideas for the Learning Planet Institute either. He has a project for a platform between the institute, startups and NGOs to exchange information and data more easily, and break down silos. « The ecosystem is stimulating, the challenge now is to get people around the table…« , he explains. No wonder Rajeev’s inspirations are researchers like Louis Pasteur, but also entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs…


Original written portrait in french by Marie Ollivier

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