An educational software product designed by the Educational Technology Team at Ames Research Center is bringing actual aeronautical work performed by NASA engineers to the public in an interactive format for the very first time, in order to introduce future generations of engineers to the fundamentals of flight.
Exploring Aeronautics was done in cartoon animation to make it appealing to kids, notes Andrew Doser, an Ames graphic artist who helped to produce the CD-ROM, along with a team of multimedia programmers, artists, and educators, in conjunction with numerous Ames scientists. In addition to lively animation, the software features QuickTime movies and highly intuitive tools to promote usage of NASA's scientific methods in the world of aeronautics.
Bill Maecker, the president of Silvercreek, New York-based MakerToys , came to NASA looking for materials and images so that he could create an educational CD-ROM learning toy to add to his company's product line. Ames had a perfect match for Maecker with its Exploring Aeronautics CD-ROM, and licensed it to his company. According to Maecker, It just made sense to license what the educators at Ames called affectionately the Aero CD, and the rest is history.â€
MakerToys chose to use AeroCD for the name of its spinoff software product. The AeroCD retains the graphical user interface developed by Ames as one means to navigate the large amount of material on the CD. As a bonus, the company added two more interfaces to simplify use. The first additional interface, a proprietary â€œTeaching Leaderâ€ component, lets an individual student enjoy the commercial version of the NASA program without direction from a teacher, by providing voice-overs when the student rolls his or her mouse across text on the computer screen. The second additional interface is a â€œCoolstuffâ€ screen that provides short NASA movie samples for users to select and determine if they are interested in continuing on to a particular longer-length QuickTime clip on the disc. The Coolstuff screen is intended to be a simplified navigation tool so that young students do not accidentally skip over important and interesting information stored on the AeroCD.
MakerToys has met with numerous science/education distributors, museums, and mass-marketers to create a distribution plan for the AeroCD, thus catering to the needs of the target market. The Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon, is one of many U.S. museums raising money to support its programs, tours, and exhibits by selling the AeroCD in its gift shop. Evergreen Aviation Museum is home to the â€œSpruce Gooseâ€ Hughes Flying Boat that was built during World War II and tested shortly thereafter. The AeroCD is also available to the general public at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum, in Washington, DC, where MakerToys flying toys have been among the top selling novelty items for years, according to the company.