10 Technology Classes We Wish We Took in College

By Justin Boyle

In the last several years, we've come to know technology as being practically synonymous with gadgetry. Most people, when they think of technology, think of Android phones, iPads, cameras that recognize your face and cars that drive themselves. Technology is all over the place, though, even in some places you wouldn't expect. Here's a diverse list of courses options as of March, 2013 from science and technology schools across the country that demonstrates just how vast and interesting technology can be:

3D Modeling, Animation, Compositing and Special Effects

  • 3D animation has become a cornerstone of the entertainment industry, especially in terms of animated feature films and PC and console gaming. This course in the University of Southern California's Information Technology Program teaches the basics of the art, using full-process 3D modeling technology. Fundamentals of the class include tech-magic concepts like particle systems, Booleans, volumetrics and inverse kinematics. Students make three short films over the course of the semester to learn the fundamentals of surfacing, modeling, lighting, animation and rendering.

Acoustics of Music

  • This Tennessee Tech University course shows students just how much science there is between the band playing the beat and the listener tapping their foot to it. The class isn't in the music department, where you'd expect -- it's in the department of physics, where music is treated as the thrumming fuzzball of pure wave energy that is at its heart. Students study instrumental acoustics, auditorium acoustics and the physical principles of sound recording and reproduction.

Art, Community and Technology:

  • The Art, Technology and Culture concentration at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, treats its third-year undergraduates to a dose of reality. This complex piece of coursework explores the ways in which technology, art and education interact with real communities. Students establish a relationship with a community organization or school, and using whatever technological resources are available, put together arts and education products that can be applied in a real-world setting. Methods from the traditional arts, activism, creative IT, community organizing and elsewhere are fair game.

Haute Couture Construction and Technology

  • The State University of New York's Fashion Institute of Technology offers this course in the high fashion discipline of custom garment design known as haute couture. Every piece of clothing we wear is designed and constructed using technology, and textiles these days are tech in and of themselves. Students each construct a skirt and jacket to help them grasp the role of technology in the creation and execution of exquisite apparel.

Information Technology in Business

  • Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX, acknowledges the sheer reliance of business on technology by providing a business IT course in their general education catalog. Far from a simple "computing for business majors" class, this course picks apart the benefits of information technology. It instills an understanding of techie lingo and examines the hardware and software components of computing systems, illustrating how their relationships to one another create a unified experience.

Internet Mapping:

  • This course at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX, helps students dissect the tools and tech used to distribute cartography on the Web. A special emphasis is placed on methods and methodology for developing interactive mapping applications like the ones used by Apple, Google and automotive GPS navigators. Prospective Internet mapping students must complete an introduction to geographic information systems course before enrolling in the class.

Introduction to Software Design:

  • Today's world is a world of software, whether it's up front as a user interface or operating behind the scenes. This basic yet rigidly technical course from the Virginia Tech College of Engineering gives students a full picture of the fundamental concepts of object-oriented programming. Principal subjects studied include data types, algorithms, control structures, modeling, testing and debugging. The course emphasizes problem solving and encourages students to take an abstract perspective on computing machines.

Plastic Processes and Applications:

  • Benjamin Braddock got a one-word piece of advice -- "plastics" -- back in 1967, and there's still no shortage of opportunities in the industry. Students in industrial technology at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, CA, can take this course to be introduced to the extremely high-tech world of plastic production. Classroom instruction focuses on costs, processes, materials and resource management in the world of industrial plastics, as well as recycling, safety and legal matters like regulatory controls on the industry.

Renewable Energy:

  • There are few hotter topics in modern industrial tech than renewable energy, and the Oregon Institute of Technology offers this course as a primer on the concept. Students gain perspective on the world's energy consumption and identify economic sectors where energy consumption is high. They also survey renewable energy sources such as solar, biofuel, hydrogen, geothermal, wind and tidal power, and debate the pros and cons of using these renewable sources to meet economic demand. The course approaches renewable energy from many sides, including political and environmental components along with the technical.

Spacecraft Navigation:

  • The Aerospace Department of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, CA, has a course that focuses on such sci-fi-sounding ideas as astrodynamics, planetary gravity field topography modeling and the statistical orbit determination problem (using both sequential Kalman and batch filter implementations, naturally). Students are required to take some training in control system theory before they can be approved to enroll.

These examples are only a small sample of the array of diverse and exciting course offerings at modern technology schools across the country. Technology in classrooms is becoming second nature to today's students, and programs like these demonstrate that technologically advanced careers may also be more accessible than ever. As science and technology schools continue to innovate and refine their available courses, the sky is truly the limit for the students of the future.

Justin Boyle is a freelance writer and journalist living in Austin, Texas. He has covered education, technology, arts & culture, world news and personal finance for various outlets and in various cities since 2007.

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