Art and engineering students team up

Corpus Callosum, a SparkSC student organization that encourages and facilitates cooperation between the arts and sciences, held its first informational meeting Wednesday night to kick off its second year as an official campus organization.

Two brothers, Jonathan Dugan, a senior majoring in aerospace and mechanical engineering, and Brendan Dugan, a senior majoring in art, came up with the idea for Corpus Callosum in fall 2013.

The organization is aptly named for a band of fibers that allows the human brain hemispheres to share information. The organization’s main goal is to promote collaboration between art and engineering students so they can work together in constructing creative projects and participate in competitions.

“My brother and I have always wanted to work together, and we noticed that at USC there wasn’t really a space for collaborative overlap between different majors,” Brendan said. “We wanted to create a space where engineers or science majors could really get involved with the arts in a hands-on way.”

Last semester the organization was made up of about 20 active members who worked in groups on four large projects.

“Last semester we had four projects going on: a geodesic dome and a heart monitor that made an animation that progressed at the rate of your heart,” Jonathan said. “We also had a music app that uses information about a person to compose a piece of music, and a 3D-printed head mold commenting on how your cells regenerate every seven years and you become essentially a new person.”

Members of the organization also took trips and attended workshops. A group trip to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to see the James Turell and Alexander Calder exhibits contextualized real-world examples of the kind of work that Corpus Callosum facilitates. A showcase for the completed projects marked the end of the semester for the group.

Additionally, local artists have come out to show their support. “We had a local artist named Rob Reynolds come in and talk with us about a project we were working on,” Brendan said. “At the end of the semester we had a big group show that showcased the projects we had been working on throughout the semester.”

Noel Butta, a senior majoring in cognitive science and founding member of Corpus Callosum, recognized the organization’s value early.

“We hung around in a small group for about a year; we weren’t exactly sure what the club would become,” Butta said. “Soon we realized there are other people out there that are into this kind of stuff, and began to get an overwhelmingly positive response.”

Corpus Callosum provides a venue for creativity that for many students, including Brendan, seems uniquely productive.

“I’ve gained creative confidence. We are really working to get ideas off of paper and into the real world. Instead of thinking of something to do we actually do it,” Brendan said. “We have a very supportive group of people with all different skill sets who are all about creativity and getting people past the creative hurdles.”

The organization encourages students to pursue innovation outside the classroom. In this way, the organization augments academic interests and furthers creative exploration. Setting deadlines and working on an independent schedule is both challenging and rewarding for Jonathan.

“For me it’s about having a creative outlet: doing something different besides engineering,” Jonathan said. “Our project system is a little more involved than a project you might do for a class. In a school project you are looking for the grade but here we are just experimenting; the goals are different and it’s more independent.”

Midway through Corpus Callosum’s spring semester, the organization will see the addition of a conceptual showcase, as well as increased expansion into the university and Los Angeles communities.

“We are going to brainstorm new ideas, split off into groups, and take the ideas one step at a time,” Brendan said. “We are looking to partner with certain corporations to get funding. We are going to check out the art and technology museum at LACMA as well as visit an artist there named John Craig Freeman who is doing an augmented reality display that measures brainwave activity.”

According to Butta, Corpus Callosum is also involved with KXSC Fest and hoping to start a crowdsourced art installation. The future might include collaborations with other organizations within Spark SC, including 3D4E, the 3D printing club.

Jonathan and Brendan are looking forward to continuing the momentum that their organization gained over the last semester.

“It really got off the ground last semester when we got a lot more people involved,” Brendan said. “This semester we’re looking to get more exposure within the Los Angeles community.”