Tenacious Inventor: Rory Cooper

October 8, 2019

Rory Cooper and his team at the Human Engineering Research Laboratories have developed over 100 inventions related to wheelchairs, robotics, and wearable instruments designed to improve the lives of people with disabilities and military veterans.  Cooper grew up being around mechanics and machines; however, before becoming an engineer and prolific innovator, Rory became an Eagle Scout and at age 17 decided to serve his country by joining the Army.  

About Cooper

Rory Cooper, PhD is the Founding Director and VA Senior Research Career Scientist of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories, Associate Dean for Inclusion, FISA & Paralyzed Veterans of America Professor, and Distinguished Professor of the Department of Rehabilitation Science & Technology at the University of Pittsburgh.


Key Highlights

  • 1:35 His parents involvement in mechanics and working on machines
  • 3:30 Why he decided to enlist in the Army
  • 4:35 An accident in Germany that left him paralyzed   
  • 6:45 Athletic achievements and educational endeavors 
  • 8:05 The beginning of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL)
  • 10:50 The role of teamwork in the field of rehabilitation
  • 12:00 How the Bakery Square development evolved and HERL became an early tenant
  • 16:25 Role of awards to raise recognition for what people with disabilities can do
  • 17:20 General Mills approaches him to be on the Cheerios box
  • 18:38 Selection to be part of the US Patent & Trademark Office’s collectible card series
  • 22:35 Frequent collaboration with his wife
  • 24:20 One word to describe himself
  • 25:20 Creating something new and seeing people use it