A University of Pittsburgh researcher was featured in a U.S. Patent & Trademark Office report for patenting a robotic strong arm that can help wheelchair users grab items.

Rory Cooper, who was recognized earlier this year by the office with a trading card created to honor U.S. inventors, holds more than two dozen patents related to mobility-improvement research. Cooper is the director at Pitt’s Human Energy Research Laboratories, a U.S. Army veteran and also serves as director of the Paralyzed Veterans of America Research Foundation.

Cooper was featured for a new patent, a robotic strong arm that aims to help wheelchair users grab items using a robotic attachment.

Cooper is paralyzed from the waist down, the result of being struck by a truck while living in Germany, and began inventing mobility solutions after realizing he was not satisfied with his hospital-issued wheelchair.

“It’s great to see this potentially life-changing work for wheelchair users be recognized on the federal level,” Cooper said. “It’s great that the federal government is actively recognizing and encouraging inventors from various backgrounds to invent and patent.”

Cooper was recognized in the patent office’s SUCCESS report, an update on progress achieved through the 2018 Study of Underrepresented Classes Chasing Engineering and Science Success (SUCCESS) Act. The act aims to promote patent applications by women, minorities, veterans, the disabled and other underrepresented classes.

“Without diversity of thought, potentially life changing work for wheel chair users and others with disabilities might not be possible,” Cooper said. “We have a world-class team at our labs that is committed to helping people with disabilities and older adults live full lives and contribute to society as much as they can and they like.”

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, pvarine@tribweb.com or via Twitter 

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