BLACKFOOT — Bus drivers from throughout the region braved the wicked roads Monday morning to keep a date with "Buster the Bus."
"Busters" is a miniature, remote-controlled 3-foot tall, animated replica of a full-sized yellow school bus, equipped with a swing-out stop sign, a crossing gate and flashing red lights, just like a real school bus.
Hank Povey, Transportation Specialist for the Idaho State Department of Education (Regions 5 & 6) brought Buster to Blackfoot High School to train bus drivers, trainers and supervisors on how to work the mini-bus so they can go into the schools and teach bus safety to kindergarten and elementary students.
"Buster functions just like a regular school bus but is the ideal size for teaching little kids important bus safety lessons," Povey said.
Some of the safety lessons that "Buster the Bus" teaches children include how to cross safely, riding the bus safely, how to stay safe while waiting for a bus, how to climb the steps and how to evacuate the school bus. The words of the trainer operating the bus come through Buster in a kid-friendly, robotic-like voice. Buster can even play cassettes featuring popular childhood songs such as "The Wheels On The Bus."
"He [Buster] can wink, blink and move his eyes and he will talk and smile at the kids right at their own eye level," Povey added. "The little kids really learn a lot from Buster. You'll hear the little ones telling the older kids and their parents how to be safe around a bus after they've been with Buster."
Melissa Carrasco, transportation director for School District 55, certified in 2005 to train with the robotic bus. She said she is looking forward to getting Buster into the area schools.
"He [Buster] is such a wonderful training tool," Carrasco remarked. "The kids love him - they call him 'the baby' and the real school buses are 'the Mommy.' "
"Buster the Bus" is about 20 years old and was purchased by the Idaho State Department of Education from Robotronics Inc. out of Springville, Utah. The "Buster" robotic buses cost around $8,000.