Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, or Virginia Tech, is a leader in using technology to teach — and have fun.

The campus Math Emporium is a former department store that houses hundreds of computers programmed with math tutoring lessons that have boosted students' math success rates. Although Virginia Tech is known for its competitive engineering programs, the school offers more than 100 majors, with particularly strong business, social sciences and agriculture programs. About 1,200 students participate in the school's cadet program, which can — and often does — lead to an officer commission in the military.

Virginia Tech's Division I teams are all cheered on by a mascot called HokieBird, a kind of mythical, muscled-up turkey. In an example of nerdy fun, the school's robotics researchers once created an award-winning robot that could dance "Gangnam Style." In a more recent (and serious) project, students and faculty at the prestigious Helmet Lab tested how well headgear protects skiers and snowboarders against injuries like a concussion.

Last year, the university launched an initiative aimed at ensuring a degree is accessible to all state residents, regardless of income. The plan includes expanding scholarships both to help more low-income students enroll and to ensure those who do aren’t too stressed about money to take advantage of all the campus offers.