Research Associate, Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre
“My whole life is a juxtaposition,” declares the Research Associate and recent graduate from Niagara College’s Computer Programming Analyst program. “I’m an introvert because I sit in my room and play video games a lot, but I’m an extrovert because I like talking to all my friends while playing video games. … I love being both.”Also in the extrovert column is his high school years performing in musicals. “I love that kind of environment; it was such a rush on opening night and probably one of my favourite memories of high school.”
A natural-born entertainer, Curtis’s love for “wowing” people does not stop at opening night; his go-to party trick is reciting the alphabet backwards just as quickly as forwards. And he can solve the Rubik’s Cube almost as fast as his oral delivery of his ABCs.On top of the stagecraft, Curtis says he enjoys being cognitively flexible – that is, having neurons firing in both hemispheres, so he can experience the logical aspect of computer programing and also the artistry of graphic design, which also happens to be a freelance business of his.
“I’m an introvert because I sit in my room and play video games a lot, but I’m an extrovert because I like talking to all my friends while playing video games. … I love being both.”
These days he gets to apply his full brainpower for his main project with the Agriculture and Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre, where he’s responsible for designing the front-end user interface for the College’s Research Crop Portal. A significant platform for the farming industry, the Crop Portal is an interactive web-tool for farmers and consultants to access precision agriculture technologies so they can farm smarter.
It is a major and ongoing project that houses and processes extensive farm data into digitized maps for the agriculture community, to make better farming decisions. This visualization allows farmers more flexibility to not only verify their data, but to also set and control their own algorithms.
“Essentially, the farmers and other agriculture users upload their set of field data, the system cleans it and pulls a prescription for their field,” Curtis describes. “So the farmers can upload a huge amount of data and we’re designing it to be visually appealing and user friendly.”
He has had a collaborative working relationship with computer programmer Ryan Tunis who works on the back-end programming of the mammoth framework, whereas Curtis focuses on the aesthetics, the consistency of flow, colours and fonts, in particular.
“It’s a fantastic system… we work back and forth, so we both have a strong understanding of what each other needs to make it work.”
The result, he says, will be extremely satisfying. “This is going to be huge for a farmer who starts using this portal every day… and it’s rewarding that I’m helping make their life easier and maybe their business prosper.”
The motivation to make a positive impact on others has followed him throughout his life, from childhood to his work as a graphic artist.
As the youngest of four brothers, Curtis grew up in Waterford, Ont., where his passion for entertaining a crowd began. He messed around with magic but knew early on that he wasn’t going to make a career of it.
“I loved doing card tricks because it amazed people right away… I like to bring the wow factor to people.”
Curtis excelled in school and was tapped for enrichment classes, but by the time he got to high school, his analytical mind wanted some “fun” stuff, such as live theatre. He even considered stand-up comedy, but his brand was more “off-the-cuff” than routine funny.
“[Research & Innovation] has given me a window into what the real-world in my profession is like and betters me for the future.”
Outside of his research work, and when he’s not designing graphics, reading about philosophy or interacting with livestreaming video pals, Curtis is learning to speak German – a nod to his grandfather’s heritage.
“I want to fill my brain up with as much information as I can.”
He also finds himself contemplating his future, and wondering where life will take him once his contract with the division expires. The possibilities are massive, he says, in large part due to the foundation of practical knowledge he received while at R&I.
“I’ve never heard, seen or experienced anything like Research and Innovation,” he says. “It’s given me a window into what the real-world in my profession is like and betters me for the future.” – R&I
*UPDATE: Curtis has indeed moved on to the real world. In October, he accepted a position as Intermediate UI/UX Designer and Developer at Oakville-based ServicePro, a customizable workflow management systems company. Read more here.