At a ceremony on May 22, 2019, informatics Ph.D. student Mark Baldwin received the UCI Engage Graduate Student Great Partner Award. UCI Engage builds campus-community partnerships that align UCI’s resources and expertise with the knowledge and strengths of local communities, and this award honors graduate students who have initiated or participated in such partnerships. Baldwin’s work on the Makapo Aquatics Project, creating a steering system to allow visually impaired individuals to participate in outrigger canoe racing, is a perfect example of a successful campus-community collaboration.
“I am honored to have been nominated and selected to receive the Great Partnership award,” he says. “Having my work with the Makapo Aquatics Project recognized by UCI is a testament to how the culture of inclusion and diversity within the Department of Informatics continues to influence my research.”
Baldwin, whose research interests include human-computer interaction, ubiquitous computing and assistive technology, creates devices that help people with disabilities. For example, his Tangible Desktop is a multimodal interface for nonvisual computing.
Baldwin says he was captivated by Makapo’s vision of giving the visually impaired community access to the open water through outrigger paddling. “Makapo has been an incredible community partner, not only providing me with the access and resources to pursue my research interests, but also making time to teach me about outrigger paddling [and] its rich history and culture.”
The system Baldwin developed is a remote-control device that lets someone else steer the boat, so visually impaired individuals can paddle alone.
“Our work together started with a simple plan to enable blind paddlers to compete in the same capacity as sighted paddlers,” he explains, “but it has since grown into an exploration of the barriers that form around groups of differing abilities.”
— Shani Murray