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Corpus Callosum Offers A New Fusion Of Tech And Design

Michael Lim |
April 9, 2014 | 1:37 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

These two students aren’t your average art enthusiasts admiring a museum exhibit. They’re co-founders of a new club at USC with a lofty vision. (Michael Lim)
These two students aren’t your average art enthusiasts admiring a museum exhibit. They’re co-founders of a new club at USC with a lofty vision. (Michael Lim)

Late in 2013, twins Jon and Brendan Dugan recognized an unmet need on campus and decided to fix it themselves. The two of them, John being a Viterbi engineer, and Brendan, a Roski Fine Arts major, pioneered “Corpus Callosum,” a USC student organization that aims to cross-pollinate technology and design. 

 Although USC students can find opportunities to study interdisciplinary topics through academic programs, few organizations exist that allow for the simultaneous exploration of technology and the arts outside the classroom.

 For engineering students at the school, there are clubs to innovate rockets, racecars, and medical devices, while likewise, plenty of opportunities exist for art students to sculpt, paint, and design outside of the classroom. However, a gap remains in the intersection between these two fields.  

 Corpus Callosum, aptly named after the part of the brain that merges the “analytical” left and “artsy” right hemispheres, fills this gap. Although the division of brain function between the right brain and left brains has been dismissed as a scientific misconception, the club’s name remains a strong metaphor for its mission.

Since its inception in the fall of 2013, Corpus Callosum has facilitated inter-hemispheric communication between not just Viterbi and Roski, but a myriad of USC departments. Over 90 members have joined to brainstorm, launch, and collaborate on technology-driven design projects. 

One such piece is a machine that utilizes electroencephalography-- or EEG, for short—the process of recording electrical activity in the brain. Once built, the device's electrical nodes will measure brain activity from a user’s scalp and channel this information through an external medium.

Significant challenges exist in executing such a lofty concept. Will the brain signals control a machine-operated paintbrush, making patterns and colors depending on emotion? Will they translate to an intense, individualized light show art installation? The possibilities are endless and potentially overwhelming; members must balance both the rejection of unrealistic features and the conception of novel ones.

CoCa members are additionally pursuing a thermoexpansion sculpture. Using the calculable tendency of metals to stretch under heat-exposure, they are devising the precise combination and arrangement of alloys for a dynamic outdoor sculpture that morphs in the hot LA sun. As long as members have ideas to spring off of and materials to tinker with, similarly innovative projects will continue to be built.

Besides working on projects, members have not hesitated in spreading their passion across campus. Earlier this semester, CoCa hosted an art show at Viterbi's e-week, displaying a variety of student submitted pieces. Additionally, they are one of the founding organizations that constitute USC's newest innovation initiative, SparkSC.

The Corpus Callosum team (Michael Lim)
The Corpus Callosum team (Michael Lim)

The Dugan twins and the rest of the founding executive board have high hopes for Corpus Callosum’s growth in the near future. “We want to begin holding workshops that help expand student’s crafts,” Brendan says. “We could facilitate classes for welding, soldering, ceramics, Rube Goldberg machines, or really anything to empower individual designers.” They also foresee a speaker series, where leaders in tech innovation and renowned artists alike will share their thoughts on how students can build an interdisciplinary world of aesthetically sound technology.

Corpus Callosum offers an unprecedented opportunity for students of all majors to conceive and build challenging, novel projects. They hold weekly meetings to brainstorm and prototype, and invite curious students to check out their current projects.  

If you are interested in further information about involvement, contact the club’s outreach committee here.


You can reach staff reporter Michael Lim here.



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