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Art, engineering come together at USC Viterbi club

Corpus Callosum bridges science, technology and creativity, bringing bright ideas to life

Corpus Callosum member
Corpus Callosum is where engineers get in touch their creativity and artists explore their scientific side. (Photo/courtesy of Corpus Callosum)

From a young age, we are taught that one is either left-brained or right-brained. The left-brained, people claim, are more organized, logical and systematic, while the right-brained are more creative and intuitive.

But what happens in the space between those two?

The USC Viterbi School of Engineering student club Corpus Callosum (CoCa) was born to answer this question. It is a place where engineers can get in touch their creative side and artists can explore their more scientific one.

“The corpus callosum is a band of nerves that joins the two hemispheres of the brain,” explained Linda Xu, an undergraduate junior in biomedical engineering and member of the club’s executive board. “At the club, we basically use science, technology and engineering to make art.”

The club’s origin

The collaboration of artists and engineers has already produced some original pieces. One past project includes the use of EEG headbands and meditation to produce the imprints of people’s perceptions of each other.

CoCa currently has about 80 members, with half studying engineering. The club started two years ago, when brothers Jonathan and Brendan Dugan, an engineer and an artist, realized that their disciplines had more in common than they had imagined.

There are a lot of engineers that want to be able to create.

Lian Lash-Rosenberg

“There are a lot of engineers that want to be able to create,” said Lian Lash-Rosenberg, a senior in biomedical engineering and club president. “As engineers, we are definitely pushed to be able to design things but aren’t really given an outlet for it in class.”

Interested members fill out an application and a questionnaire. Club leaders divide students into teams based on their interests and skills.

The teams are then given specific subjects and work for one semester on a project that they present at the CoCa showcase. This year’s event took place on Dec. 2.

Innovative ideas

Projects are both innovative and complex. For example, one of the teams is making an LED shirt that creates a unique pattern based on the user’s pulse. The idea: As the pulse goes above or below a certain threshold, the LEDs will change to a randomly generated color.

Other projects that were in the works during the fall semester included a bicycle generator that powers a speaker system, a video game art installation and a movable robot that houses a plant and takes care of it.

“Corpus Callosum is a great way to extend and apply your engineering and art skills outside of the classroom, without the pressure of satisfying any assignment requirements or achieving a grade,” said Laura Gouillion, a computer science major with a minor in music recording.

CoCa generally succeeds in providing its members with the means for bringing their ideas to fruition. More importantly, it gives students the opportunity to commit to an idea and carry it through a design and manufacturing process.

“We are all about creating a community of people that don’t think that engineering and art are two separate things,” Lash-Rosenberg said. “At CoCa, everyone has something to contribute.”

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