Museum’s App teaches Kids about WW1 Aviation

Using graphic arts, aviation simulation and story telling to explain and engage participants in World War 1 Aviation?  Well that sure resonates with the goals of this blog.  Combine that with the extensive collection at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum and a desire to reach out to kids under ten years old and you have something really special.

Here is their museum website and if you look at the blow up on the right, the example WW1 aircraft inside the museum.

Pic0You can download the app “Air Academy” for free on I-tunes.  Here is the link that describes the program on their website ( the promo video is a little cheesy).

What is unique about the program is it teaches the principles of flight and some of the primary skills a pilot needed in World War 1 included aircraft identification and observation utilizing the aircraft and artifacts at the museum.  The “basic training” is simple and intuitive, the graphics and dialogue crisp and clean.  This is more of a teaching tool than a flight sim, They targeted young children, but I found it engaging enough that I worked thru all the levels.  My only disappointment was that the lessons seemed to be building up to a solo flight that ended very abruptly.  Not sure if this is a work in progress or the final product, but one more level that allowed more free flight at the end would be nice.

Pic1Flight Lieutanant Turnbull is your guide through training….betting this is based on a real historical figure from Ontario…. John Howard “Jack” Turnbull


Before each lesson you get to visit the plane in the hanger and can rotate it around to give it a close look.  Small blue circles generate pop-up detail photos of the actual plane in the musuem with detail facts ( to bad you can’t zoom in, the models are very nice)


Basic lessons on lift, drag, control surfaces using the planes in the collection including the Maurice Farman S.11 Shorthorn, Curtiss JN-4 “Canuck”.  Simple swipe commands, to illustrate the concepts


Now it starts getting fun, fly over from high altitude in the Nieuport 12 and show your skills at identifying key targets like airfields and bridges


A lesson on aircraft identification both by insignia and wing shapes and a beautiful graphic with criss crossing planes at various altitudes and some clouds to see if you can identify the enemy aircraft.  Planes in the hanger for these are the Junkers J.1 and the Bristol F.2B


As  a reward you unlock more detail artifacts, click on the picture and get the story.

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The final lesson involves some navigation and target shooting, controlling the aircraft by tilting and turning the ipad in the Sopwith Camel 2F.1  I enjoyed it, but over way too fast.

You have to give the CAS folks credit for using current technology to educate young kids about military history and aviation.  Only thing I found missing was some historically accurate information about what the risks were for a typical pilot.  Many men lost their lives during World War 1 and the life span of a typical pilot was very, very short.  Without that information, this is just a video game and I’m pretty sure they were aiming higher than that with this effort.


Creating WW1 Vintage Aviation Photo’s….

I want to have a mix of sketches and photos in the journal.  The photos would be real scenes from The Blue Max story line, but want an edge of fantasy so the reader can still use their imagination to remember the story the way they saw it in their own minds eye. The experiments with sketches and clouds got my mind going on using photo collages, taking real WW1 photographs but combine, planes skies and figures so I could compose my own picture to match the action in the story.  I intentionally am fuzzing out the detail to leave the end result abstract.  Lots of potential here.

First came a vintage plane crash image.


Than a picture of Mr. Von Richthofen


Then a stormy sky….


Put them together and filter the image to make it more abstract….

albatros pic copy

Drop the image in the journal and there you go…..

Journal Pic

Not perfect, whites are too bright, tabs to big,  resolution is not great, but it has a lot of promise!

Creating my vintage tabletop!

My vision for this journal is that it is packed full of artifacts, maps, reports.  This means not only will I be photographing pages in the journal, but I will be unfolding and photographing larger exhibits as well.  To do that the copy stand surface has to be large and the table top becomes as important of an element as the journal or the pen.  I have been building the large copy stand but was really unsure what material to use for the top.  I toyed with using black epoxy or some kind of fancy wood veneer but did not want to spend a fortune. I was digging through our garage when it dawned on me that our old butcher block kitchen table from years back was buried in the garage somewhere and being used to store gardening supplies.  I started researching “do it yourself” websites for aging butcher block and found some great videos that convinced me I could come up with something convincing by carefully beating the crap out of the old table top. I was on my way to creating a vintage table top!

This first set of images shows the table itself cut down to size and placed on the copy stand.  I sanded it many times with a vibration sander with sandpaper from 120 to 220 grit to get it as smooth as possible.  Once that was done, it was time for the fun part.  The last picture in the lower right hand corner are my “implements of destruction”.. Chain link, bolts and nails in a sock, various pieces of metal that I could indent the surface by wacking it with a hammer to make it look old.  The trick was to be random but with an eye for composition.  Hard to explain, but you did have to think about it so that the markings feel random and are not a distraction in the final picture


This series of pictures shows the finishing of the butcher block.  I used about three coats of an oil based walnut colored stain.  Brushed it on and wiped it off with a towel.  I did do a test sample first on one of the scraps.  One of the random discoveries was that if I scored the butcher block joints with a nail the stain sticks in the groove and gave it a plank board look.  By doing this at every other block it simulated larger planks than the narrow butcher block pieces.  Somehow this felt more like an old table you might find in the squad meeting room to me.   I finished it off with about four coats of a hand rubbed polyeurathane finish, sanding with very fine steel wool in the end.  Likely it is too shiny right now, may have to use the steel wool to dull it some.


Here are some test pictures of the finished table top with the journal on top of it.  Almost looks like a 1900’s era table from an old school building.  Ton’s of room for larger exhibits to be composed if needed.


Here it is with the journal open.  My camera has very limited f-stop control so it is not possible to get the table and journal in full focus.  Santa is bringing me a better camera so I expect the photo quality to be much better on the final.


And so you get a sense of where I am going with this, here is the same picture after adding a sketch and some text in photoshop.  The sketch is a scan of a hand sketch where the backround color has been made clear so the paper shows thru.  That means things like shadows from the pen actually show up.   Once you place the layer over the photograph you erase the lines that overlap the pen so it looks like it goes under the pen.  I also made the layers slightly tranparent so that it receeds.  Still some white hot spots showing and I am not happy with the resolution of the sketch especially if you zoom in, but overall I am pleased with the quality and feel.


More adventures to come, need to see if I can age the journal itself so that it looks as old as the table next.