Elementary school students in Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. have recently been introduced to a new member of the transportation team who is full of life — though he needs some time to recharge every now and then.
“Buster is a mini, remote-controlled bus,” explained BCSC bus driver Dalton Burden. “He talks. He has some eyes that move. There’s lights just like the amber lights, stop arm and red lights on the bus. He has headlights, turn signals and tail lights. He has a rear emergency exit door. And also he has windows and stuff. He does drive around.”
BCSC’s bus safety team have been using Buster as part of visits to elementary schools, with Burden operating the robot.
According to Robotronics, Inc, the company’s “Buster the School Bus” product is a fully animated, remote-controlled robot designed to teach school bus safety. Buster robots range from about $10,300 to $12,000 in price, depending on whether schools purchase the standard or package option, as well as add-ons.
BCSC officials initially introduced Buster at a school board meeting in December 2022. He made his debut with kids this fall, Burden said.
The school corporation previously used puppet shows to demonstrate bus safety and were looking for a more up-to-date approach.
“It’s just more of an interactive tool so that the kids actually see, without bringing a full-size bus into a classroom setting,” said Burden. “They can actually see in a mini, more toy version — that they’re all obsessed with — of what a bus does.”
He added that having the bot is helpful visual tool when he needs to demonstrate safety rules, such as keeping a 10-foot distance from the bus while crossing.
Kids have responded well to Buster, he said.
“They really get excited when they walk into a room and they see this small, toy bus,” Burden said. “But they do listen and they interact very well. They’re asking questions, they’re retaining information. Buster also asks students questions as far as bus safety, just to make sure that they are paying attention and that they are retaining the information. And so far, all the kids that I ask questions to — sorry, Buster has asked questions to — they’ve all got them right. … Even as far as Pre-K, they’re retaining the information that they’re given.”