Buster the Bus: ‘Safety First, Safety Always’ in Fort Mill

rsouthmayd@heraldonline.comDecember 18, 2013 

— The Fort Mill school district has put a new face on its bus safety program. It’s small, it’s yellow and it can cruise around and talk all by itself.

Or, at least, that’s how it appeared to the kindergartners at Sugar Creek Elementary School, who got their first look at “Buster the Bus” Wednesday morning.

Buster is a three-foot-tall robot that can talk, drive around, blink, flash its lights and extend its stop sign, just like a real school bus. At Sugar Creek’s presentation, bus driver Barry Shackleford took Buster and the students through the basics of bus safety.

“We don’t want any of our children hurt,” Shackleford said as he talked about proper bus behavior and how to get on and off a bus safely.

Buster took a break from his teaching duties to lead the students in a round of “Jingle Bells,” and transportation supervisor Mark Vigeant said that’s just what Buster was for – teaching and fun.

“We needed something more than just the drivers telling them,” Vigeant said. “We thought Buster would be a way to make an impact on them.”

The kindergartners seemed to learn a lot. One of them, Makenzy Markners, said Buster was “very nice and also very good.”

“I learned that you always have to be safe on the bus,” she said.

Behind the scenes, driving Buster and making him talk and blink was bus driver Sharon Davis, who said Buster is a great way to get the kids’ attention.

“I want to teach them bus safety in a way that they understand,” she said.

Buster is manufactured by education safety technology company Robotronics. The most basic version retails for more than $7,000, but there are pricier models and plenty of accessories for buyers to choose from to make Buster even fancier.

Vigeant hopes to bring Buster to as many Fort Mill students as possible, and he is trying to work with other school districts to visit their schools as well.

Rachel Southmayd •  803-329-4072

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