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  • PT Inventors Among Those Honored by Smithsonian

    When the going gets tough, the tough physical therapists (PTs) get inventing, and the results can be truly transformative.

    The Smithsonian Institution would agree.

    This month, a "prone progressive crawler" device developed by 2 PTs will be among 13 projects selected by the Smithsonian's Museum of American History to be featured in an upcoming celebration of collaboration between the Institution and the US Patent and Trademark Office. The "Innovation Festival" scheduled for September 26 and 27 will bring the public in contact with inventors, chosen by way of a juried process, who are "creating the world of the future," according to a museum announcement.

    Among those honored inventors: H. Thubi Kolobe, PT, PhD, FAPTA, and Peter E. Pidcoe, PT, DPT, PhD, co-patent recipients for the Self-Initiated Prone Progressive Crawler (SIPPC), a device that combines a skateboard-like platform with a "high-tech onesie" that helps infants with developmental delays avoid learned non-use/disuse. Kolobe is a researcher at the College of Allied Health in the Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center (OUHSC); Pidcoe is on faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University's Department of Physical Therapy and has joint appointments in the School of Engineering's Department of Biomedical Engineering and the School of Medicine's Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

    According to an article in the OUHSC newsletter (pdf), the SIPPC creates an interface between clothing worn by the infant and a device that can help the child move: the special onesie worn by infants using the SIPPC is a "kinematic capture suit" that delivers movement data to researchers, allowing them to in turn fine-tune the board so that it responds to the initiation of a movement and helps the child move across the floor. The invention is intended to reward the infant with movement and provide early successes that the child can learn to repeat, so that crucial brain connections are made at a key time in the child's development.

    Thanks in part to a grant from the National Science Foundation, the SIPPC continues to evolve and can now be used in conjunction with a special cap with multiple sensors that monitor electrical activity in the child's brain. Many of the components of the SIPCC were developed in cooperation with the UO Biomedical Engineering Center in the Gallogly College of Engineering.

    The SIPCC will take its place in the festival alongside projects from NASA, Oak Ridge Laboratories, Ford Motor Company, the US Department of Agriculture, and others.

    In the announcement from the museum, John Gray, museum director, describes the festival as part of an approach that "looks at innovation as a way of continuing to tell the story of America," and that "gives visitors the opportunity to discover inventions and meet the people who design and create such innovations."

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