ECU assistant dean elected to National Academy of Inventors Senior Members class

East Carolina University Assistant Dean for Dental Education and Informatics Robert Todd Watkins, Jr. was elected to the National Academy of Inventors Senior Members Class of 2022. The organization announced the newly inducted members on Feb. 11 — National Inventors Day.

East Carolina University assistant dean Todd Watkins will be inducted into the National Academy of Inventors Senior Member Class of 2022.

New to the title of “inventor,” Watkins is the third from ECU to receive this honor since 2010. He joins a class of 83 academic inventors across 41 research universities and institutions. A long-standing innovator and entrepreneur, Watkins has received four U.S. patents since December 2020 for:

  • Systems, Methods, and Computer Program Products for Generating a Normalized Assessment of Instructors;
  • Normalization and Cumulative Analysis of Cognitive Educational Outcome Elements and Related Interactive Report Summaries;
  • Apparatus for Improving Applicant Selection Based on Performance Indices; and
  • Methods, Systems, and Computer Program Products for Normalization and Cumulative Analysis of Cognitive Post Content.

As far back as 1988, Watkins saw the need to make curriculum available in a digital format, leading to his first startup company, Vital Source Technologies, Inc., which would become a global leader in digital content. Starting in 2008 at ECU, Watkins translated his research on assessment technologies into an outcomes assessment engine called eXtensible Competencies Platform (XComP™) which he implemented with the first class of ECU dental students. The system gained worldwide attention and recognition from Apple when the ECU School of Dental Medicine was repeatedly selected as an Apple Distinguished School. Watkins became a member of the Apple global community of educators who use technology to benefit student learning. XComP™ eventually garnered attention and a partnership with IBM in 2018, and the platform is expected to become commercially available this year.

Watkins was nominated by Marti Van Scott, director of licensing and commercialization at ECU, for his “contributions to methods for improving institutional and student outcomes in education through digital innovations.” Van Scott noted that Watkins’ patents have been long coming as, for nearly a decade, software patents were seen largely as abstract ideas and not patentable.

Watkins said of the honor, “This award is personally satisfying, and is also a credit to ECU’s real commitment to developing public/private partnerships from translational faculty research.” Watkins continued, “ECU and I have worked diligently to develop and protect these unique educational technologies so they can be used to improve all aspects of education and training, from K-12 to military programs.”

The National Academy of Inventors was founded in 2010 to recognize and encourage inventors with patents issued from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), enhance the visibility of academic technology and innovation, encourage the disclosure of intellectual property, educate and mentor innovative students, and translate the inventions of its members to benefit society. NAI senior members are active faculty, scientists and administrators from NAI member institutions who have demonstrated success in patents, licensing and commercialization for producing technologies that have brought, or aspire to bring, real impact on the welfare of society.

Watkins and his fellow 2022 NAI senior members will be inducted during a ceremony in June in Phoenix, Ariz.

In addition to this honor, Watkins and other select ECU inventors will be recognized during ECU’s Research and Scholarship Awards Ceremony in March.

Watkins joined ECU in 2008, where he became the first faculty member and founding assistant dean of dental education and informatics. Watkins received his bachelor of arts in psychology and doctor of dental surgery degree at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. He received an advanced education in general dentistry certificate at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio School of Dentistry. Watkins has served as adjunct research faculty for the Medical University of South Carolina School of Dentistry since 2017.