Summer 2019

Going places

Stephen Mylabathula says a sensor in the headband records brain activity that will be used to predict intended movements, allowing users to move their wheelchair without moving their head.

If Stephen Mylabathula, ’19 B.S., has any say about it, wheelchair users may one day be able to direct their chairs’ movements based on thoughts alone. 

The idea came to Mylabathula in 2016, when he was competing in an MIT hackathon and saw a headband that assesses a person’s mental state during meditation. 

One of Mylabathula’s friends, who uses a wheelchair, encouraged him to take the concept further. That led Mylabathula and fellow College of Science and Engineering student Furqan Syed to develop a headband that uses head movements and brain signals to direct a wheelchair. 

After the idea took first place at BizPitch, a student entrepreneur competition, Syed and Mylabathula built a prototype of the headband, started user testing, and cofounded Galilea Technologies. “The name alludes to the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus walked on water,” Mylabathula says. 

He and Syed are looking for additional applications for the technology. “The wheelchair market involves FDA approval,” he explains. “Our advisors think other markets will help us validate the idea faster.” 

Recently hired by Facebook, Mylabathula plans to work on Galilea on the side. He’s grateful for the scholarships he received and for an education that emphasized research, innovation, and entrepreneurship. “Galilea wouldn’t be here without it,” he says.

Hear more from Stephen Mylabathula about how he became interested in computers and technology: