Buster the Bus teaches F-M students about bus safety

— “Wake up, Buster!”

The eager Fayetteville-Manlius School District first grade students shouted in unison at the child-sized yellow bus that was “sleeping” before them in the school cafeteria.

The Mott Road Elementary School students, who were gathered for a bus safety presentation, squealed in delight as Buster the Bus awoke, opening his eyes, flashing his lights and zipping across the cafeteria floor.

Buster, who stands about two feet tall and is about three feet long, is a fully animated remote controlled robot that moves, speaks, listens, plays audiocassette tapes and activates his lights all by remote control. He can wink, blink and move his eyes, and most importantly, engage young children on the topic of bus safety.

“This really gets the kids involved,” F-M Transportation Director John Cunningham said.

The district transportation department annually visits each elementary school to give bus safety presentations. In the past, bus drivers have used a small child-sized wooden bus to enhance their talks.

Last year, Cunningham called around to see if anyone had a Buster the Bus robot they didn’t want anymore. He lucked out when he spoke with Matthews Buses, Inc. based in East Syracuse. They had a broken Buster they agreed to donate to F-M. A new Buster costs about $8,000.

Aaron Fountain, one of F-M’s Transportation Department mechanics, took the lead on repairing Buster. He fixed the motor’s wiring and voice feature and spiffed Buster up with some new paint and F-M detailing.

District bus drivers have been practicing their presentation, as it takes one person to introduce the topic, another to give the presentation along with Buster, a third to be the voice of Buster – think the Wizard in the Wizard of Oz – and a fourth to control Buster’s movements via a remote control.

The interactive presentation, which covers topics such as backpack and bus stop safety and crossing the street safely, includes a PowerPoint presentation and ends with an original song about bus safety written and performed by Dave Novak, an F-M bus driver and professional musician.

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