SALT LAKE CITY — Westminster College officials are working to expand the number of computer science courses in Utah high schools with the help of a $790,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, the college announced Friday.

The grant money will be used to train teachers in the implementation of rigorous Exploring Computer Sciences curricula, according to Westminster spokeswoman Arikka Von. She said the courses go beyond the basic uses of electronic devices and teach students how computers work.

The courses are currently in a pilot stage at three schools but officials expect to expand to 100 schools within three years, according to Von. 

"The idea is to have it statewide, implemented into all schools eventually," she said.

The project is being headed by Westminster associate professor Helen Hu, in partnership with the State Office of Education, BYU and Southern Utah University.

“We need to take Utah students beyond knowing how to browse the Internet and use Microsoft Word,” Hu said in a prepared statement. “Teenagers and their parents have expressed enthusiasm for a class about how computers actually work and the myriad ways they are integrated in the world around us.”

Last year, 25 percent of Utah high schools offered computer science courses and only 11 percent offered a course in AP computer science, according to Westminster officials.

Benjamin Wood