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March 25, 2002


John Bluck / Elena Kozak

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

650/604-5026 or 604-9000



Teachers soon will preview NASA cartoon character Robin Whirleybird, who ‘lives’ in a new children's Internet storybook and will explain rotorcraft to young children beginning next fall.

Rotorcraft are ‘runway independent aircraft,’ helicopters and tilt-rotor airplanes, that get their lift and thrust from rotor blades. Educators will learn about the web-based storybook in a presentation at the National Science Teachers Association’s (NSTA) national convention in San Diego, Calif. on March 27—30. Teachers nationwide may see a preliminary version of the web site at:

"The new web site tells about Robin Whirleybird, a young girl who visits a NASA research center at which her mother works," said Melissa Maradiegue, manager of the Educator Resource Center at NASA Ames Research Center located in California’s Silicon Valley. "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."

The web site and its read-aloud, on-line book target Kindergarten through fourth grade students, classroom teachers, home-schoolers and people interested in rotorcraft.

"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," said Susanne Ashby. She is the site’s conceptual designer, its co-author and member of the team at NASA Ames that developed ‘Robin Whirleybird on her Rotorcraft Adventures.’

The web site includes a brief rotorcraft history, rotorcraft facts, photos of rotorcraft types and what these aircraft are designed to do. The site also involves the reader with Robin, the main character, in testing various landing approaches for sound levels.

"Users are invited to explore using the buttons within the menu bar to listen to the story being read aloud, and to learn lots of interesting facts about rotorcraft," said Ashby. "It is a tremendous resource for learning about aeronautics, and NASA’s research in runway independent aircraft."

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

The preliminary web site will move to its permanent URL -- -- after May 1. The site is slated to remain at that URL for its public debut in September.

Members of the NASA Ames Educational Technology Team will describe the web site to teachers during a session, 'NASA Rotorcraft,' slated for 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. PST March 29 at the NSTA San Diego convention. Information about the web site also will be available at a NASA booth throughout the convention from March 27-30. More information about the NSTA and its San Diego convention is on the Internet at:

The team designed and created the web site with funding from NASA’s Rotorcraft Program, developers of the Rotorcraft Aircrew Systems Concepts Airborne Laboratory (RASCAL) Project, a flying laboratory that tests new rotorcraft equipment.


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