Logo: University of Southern California

The Space Between

USC Viterbi club Corpus Callosum is at the intersection of science, technology and art
By: Natalia Velez
December 07, 2015 —

Photo courtesy of Corpus Callosum
From a very young age, we are often 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. However, what happens in the space between those two?

From its very name, the USC Viterbi student club Corpus Callosum (CoCa) was born to answer this question. It is a place where engineers can get in touch their more creative side and where 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 collaboration of artists and engineers has already produced some very original pieces. Past projects include the use of EEG headbands and meditation to produce the imprints of people’s perceptions of each other, watershed graffiti, and an interactive installation that used users’ spatial location to output a sound.

Currently, CoCa counts 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 ever imagined.

“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 then present at the CoCa showcase. This year’s event will take place on Dec. 2 and includes seven projects.

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

Other projects that have been in the works this semester include a bicycle generator that powers a speaker system, a videogame art installation, and a movable robot that houses a plant and is able to take care of it on its own.

“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 the means for making their idea come to life. 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.”