Ahmanson Lab Collaboratories: 2018-2019

Terraforming Mars

Mars and its potential habitability have intrigued humanity for centuries.  Since 1965, when the Mariner 4 spacecraft found Mars to be a lifeless, barren world, our imagination has taken a new turn--that of terraforming Mars and making it habitable for humans.  Students will be guided through a multidisciplinary approach to the terraforming problem: they will review scientific and science fiction literature, build a self-contained ecosystem in which plants are grown in simulated Martian soil, attend active learning sessions about Mars, and use fishbowl discussions and worldbuilding tools to visually explore possibilities of a terraformed Mars of their own design. Students will also explore the social, political, geological, and environmental impacts of a terraformed Mars.

Vahe Peroomian, Physics & Astronomy
Dana Milstein, Writing Program

See the full description and schedule here.


Mapping and App-ing Los Angeles: Connecting our City Through Photo Archives at the L.A. Times and USC Libraries

This collaboratory will address the dual issues of a disjointed Los Angeles and a declining local press by working in partnership with the L.A. Times to create an app that maps historic photos, both from the newspaper and from USC Libraries' archives, around the city. When a user is by a photo site, they can use their camera to overlay the old photo on top of the current view via augmented reality, connecting the city’s history to its present. When the user clicks on an old photo, the app will display a detailed description of the photo’s history, including links to news articles related to the photo. We are looking for highly motivated students who have any or all of the following technical skills: iOS/Android app development, graphic design, photography, GIS/mapping, and programming. But as this is a polymathic endeavor, we are also in need of students who may not be as technically-minded but want to delve into the L.A. Times and USC Libraries historical archives, curating photos and researching their history in Los Angeles.

Geoffrey Cowan, University Professor and Annenberg Family Chair in Communication Leadership
Brianna Johnson, USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy
Max Lu, USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy
Jessica Ryan, USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy

See the full description and schedule here.


Futures of Democracy

Given the centrality of democratic political participation to the maintenance of civil society, the protection and expansion of human rights, the redress of historical inequities, and the confrontation of global-scale crises such as climate change, it is the responsibility of those of us who are able to restore, renew, and "harden" democracy in the face of the socially atomizing technologies and borderless oligarchies that underwrite its present malaise. But what are the fixes we need? Drawing on expertise gained from designing participatory imagination projects, professors Kiki Benzon and Jeff Watson (School of Cinematic Arts) will guide collaboratory members through the polymathic process of conceiving, designing, and deploying a large-scale transmedia creativity and imagination experience to engage the USC community, selected visionaries from arts and industry, and the public at large in envisioning futures wherein democratic governance is resilient and expansive, and where authoritarian anti-democratic movements are returned to the dustbin of history where they belong.

Kiki Benzon, School of Cinematic Arts
Jeff Watson, School of Cinematic Arts

See the full description and schedule here.


Please email Curtis Fletcher at cfletche@usc.edu with any questions.