(TNS) -- This school year, Grace Goodman learned how a computer virus spreads through a simulation involving her peers, desks and white tape.
"We actually saw how a virus moves around," the 15-year-old Flour Bluff High School student said. "The desks (networks) were connecting the computers (people) and we saw the path (tape) the virus took around the network of computers."
Grace said she's also built a calculator, a game that teaches how to code and a website during the AP Computer Science Principles course unique to the school.
From a nationwide pool of more than 180 that applied, Flour Bluff was among 55 high schools and higher education institutions chosen to pilot the course. Institutions with large minority groups were targeted throughout the selection process.
Any high school can add the course to the AP lineup starting in the Fall and some colleges and universities have committed to working to develop a credit or placement policy for the course.
Technology teacher Paul Graham, who completed Flour Bluff High School's application, has taught the course three years.
Flour Bluff requires a technology credit to graduate and Graham said enrollment has almost doubled since it started. This school year, 37 students were introduced to computer science-related topics like 3-D animation, music software, robotics, artificial intelligence, computer simulation and research of the impact of computers and technology on society through the class.
"The course takes the students beyond hard coding," he said. "Programming is done with more graphical languages that don't require knowledge of syntax. It introduces them to different areas of the field and provides a better understanding of what's out there."
The field's nature can be intimidating, but the course's atypical approach takes the fear away and has attracted students who may have shied away in the past.
"They know they are not expected to write code from Day 1," Graham said.
Lien Diaz, a senior director of AP Computer Science for the College Board, said the National Science Foundation funded the process of gathering experts on the course's subject matter. Project Lead the Way, a nonprofit that specializes in developing Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) based curricula, also helped engineer the pilot course. University professors and high school teachers were part of the team meant to ensure the course is designed to engage students of all capacities.
"The running theme is to make sure it's interesting," Diaz said.
College Board made a tool kit available online to help educators focus on course recruiting efforts that are inclusive of female students and minorities.
The board recommends instructors train to administer the course, but it's not a requirement to teach the curriculum.
An AP summer institute to coach instructors through lesson plans and course activities will be available to about 180 professionals. Through the Department of Education's White House Initiative, the board will offer scholarships to instructors that teach large populations of Hispanic students.
The AP Computer Science Principles pilot in 2014-15 reached about 1,500 students. In the college cohort, 40 percent were female students, and in the high school cohort it was 25 percent, College Board officials said.
©2016 the Corpus Christi Caller-Times (Corpus Christi, Texas). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.