Pitt Professor, Inventor Rory Cooper Honored at Smithsonian Institute

Rory Cooper trading card front and backRory A. Cooper, director of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories within the University, was honored in Washington, D.C., at the Smithsonian Institute Museum of American History on Saturday, May 18, with a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office inventor trading card and portrait.

Cooper, who has over two dozen patents in his name that are awarded or pending, is the first Pitt professor to receive this honor and the 28th inventor inducted into the card series, which was established in 2012. He joins a prestigious gallery of inventors such as Thomas Edison, George Washington Carver, Abraham Lincoln and Hedy Lamarr, among others. The trading card contains information on Cooper’s work, which has led to improvements in mobility for persons with disabilities.

This work includes projects such as PneuChair, a waterproof motorized wheelchair that runs entirely on compressed air, and StrongArm, a specialized wheelchair attachment designed to help wheelchair users transfer in and out of their electric powered wheelchair to other surfaces like chairs and beds.

USPTO's Laura Peter and Rory Cooper

His portrait contains another patent of his, the Ergonomic Dual Surface Wheelchair Pushrim, a wheelchair accessory designed to relieve stress on the wheelchair pusher's upper body.

“This gallery includes some of the greatest inventors in human history, and without a doubt this is an incredible honor. However, it is also great to see the amazing work being done at HERL be recognized as well,” said Cooper, who is also associate dean for inclusion and the FISA/Paralyzed Veterans of America Distinguished Professor at the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. “The researchers in the laboratories pour their time and effort into technologies that aim to improve people’s lives who need it most. It truly is amazing to see just how far mobility technology has come, and I’m excited to see what comes next.”

The unveiling of Cooper’s trading card and portrait at the Smithsonian is part of the annual Military Inventors Day. Cooper is a U.S. Army veteran and also serves as director of the Paralyzed Veterans of America Research Foundation.