SEST-649 Hands-On Unconventional Technologies
Fall for 2017-2018
Can a terrorist build a biological weapon? How is additive manufacturing likely to impact the
logistics chain? What does a chemical threat mean for military operations? Answering these and
other related questions requires an investigation of the underlying technologies in addition to
their security implications, but for non-scientists, there are few opportunities to experiment with
unconventional technologies that do not require years of training. This course will provide an
opportunity for hands-on experience geared towards analysts, strategists, and policymakers with
no technical training.
The course begins by investigating how we think about technology, what makes technologies
‘unconventional,’ the ramifications of categorizing these technologies separately, and how to
approach analysis of technologies in their operational context. The core of the course is
comprised of unconventional technology modules, focusing on nuclear & radiological weapons,
chemical weapons, biotechnology & biological weapons, and additive manufacturing. In addition
to the traditional ‘unconventional weapons’ technologies, the course includes additive
manufacturing because it has the potential to impact national security outside of traditional
defense investment, procurement, and capability pipelines. Each module combines 1-2 lectures
on the characteristics, history, and security implications of the technology or application area
with a ‘hands-on’ class period spent experimenting with relevant science and technology
(pending availability of resources). In 2014, we successfully conducted three lab experiences out
of the four areas, with a goal of all four in 2015. The course finishes with an examination of how
we can assess the future development and impact of unconventional technologies.
This course has been purposefully designed so that no prior scientific or technical training is
required to succeed, but participants will be expected to engage wholeheartedly with the
concepts presented in the course.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None

Course syllabi
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Fall '17: Herr A (file download)
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