NASA’s educational mission to inspire the nation’s youth took another step forward with the development and recent launch of a new on-line, interactive children’s book ‘Robin Whirlybird on her Rotorcraft Adventures’ to coincide with the new school year.

Building on the fascination of children with flying vehicles, especially those that fly like dragonflies or humming birds, the online children’s book will introduce history, concepts and research in aeronautics and rotorcraft. The primary audience for ‘Robin Whirlybird’ is kindergarten through fourth grade students.

“By exposing students to real applications in science and technology including careers that use these content areas, ‘Robin Whirlybird’ seeks to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers,” commented Christina O’Guinn, Lead for the NASA Ames Educational Technology Team located in California’s Silicon Valley.

Designed to have the look and feel of a children’s book, the story revolves around a young girl named Robin who visits a NASA research center where her mother works as an engineer. During her visit, Robin explores the concepts behind aeronautical design, the physics of flight and the practical application of rotorcraft, also known as helicopters or runway-independent aircraft (RIA). RIAs are a category of aircraft that derive lift and thrust from rotor blades and are capable of taking-off and landing without runways.

“The site is designed to engage and capture the interest of young children, not only through the story itself, but also through the interactive elements found on every page. Users are invited to explore using the buttons within the menu bar to listen to the story being read aloud and to explore interesting science concepts about rotorcraft,” explained Susanne Ashby, the site’s conceptual designer, co-author and member of the NASA Ames Educational Technology Team that developed the site. “It is a tremendous resource for learning about aeronautics and NASA’s research in runway-independent aircraft.”

Lesson plans also will be added to the web site in portable document format (PDF) early next year. These lessons will feature hands-on science and technology activities that correlate to national education standards for science, technology, reading and language arts.

“This web site is a unique classroom tool in the sense that, while the subject it discusses is science-based, it uses an interactive story, strengthening language arts and vocabulary skills,”
said Melissa Maradiegue, manager of the Educator Resource Center at NASA Ames.
The ‘Robin Whirlybird on her Rotorcraft Adventures’ web site was recently recognized with a Golden Web Award from the International Association of Web Masters and Designers.

NASA Ames Research Center is a leader in the research and development of runway-independent aircraft technology including quieter rotor blades and the Rotorcraft Aircrew Systems Concepts Airborne Laboratory (RASCAL), a flying research laboratory.

The ‘Robin Whirlybird’ website can be found at: