By Malorie Burkett
VCU College of Health Professions
Peter Pidcoe, Ph.D., D.P.T., a professor and assistant chair in the Department of Physical Therapy in VCU’s College of Health Professions, has been named a 2020 fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.
Pidcoe, who also has appointments in the College of Engineering’s Department of Biomedical Engineering and the School of Medicine’s Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, has been part of a collaborative team across VCU and VCU Health whose efforts have focused on projects to address COVID-19 and support patients nationwide experiencing respiratory symptoms. Pidcoe developed software for an alternative ventilator that health systems can build from scratch.
As an engineer and physical therapist, Pidcoe creates inventions in rehabilitation robotics, a field where patients use robotic innovations to help with their physical rehabilitation. He holds patents for a modified elliptical exercise machine that helps stroke survivors, who may have limited mobility in one side of their body, regain strength and improve their walking skills. He also invented a motorized skateboard for babies as young as 3 months old with cerebral palsy and other conditions that affect movement. The invention allows babies to explore their environment — an important part of infants’ brain development — by using body weight shifts and subtle limb movements to direct motion.
Pidcoe’s rehabilitation robotics projects go beyond his patented inventions: He and his students have created a modified bike for a child born with a condition that wouldn’t let him bend his joints. In the Go Baby Go program, Pidcoe also frequently works with students, physical therapists and engineers to modify battery-powered cars to allow children with conditions that prevent them from using the standard controls to explore their environments.
The 2020 National Academy of Inventors fellow class represents 115 research universities and governmental and nonprofit research institutes worldwide. Pidcoe, director of the Engineering and Biomechanics Lab, is the sixth faculty member at VCU to earn this distinction, which highlights academic inventors whose inventions have made a tangible impact on the quality of life, economic development and welfare of society.
The class of fellows will be inducted in June at the 10th annual meeting of the National Academy of Inventors in Tampa, Florida.