BILOXI, MS (WLOX) – He looks like a miniature yellow school bus, but what makes him stand out is his charming personality.
"You're 17 years old? I can't believe it!" he exclaimed to a seven-year-old girl.
Buster the Talking School Bus visited Popp's Ferry Elementary Friday to explain some important school bus safety rules. The three-foot tall robot talked to the children on their level.
"Look at her smiling, see?" Buster said with a wink.
The man behind Buster's squeaky voice is Bryan Nash, a 30-year veteran of the transportation industry in Alabama. Nash is the president of Crossgate Services. Teaching school bus safety to children is his life-long dream.
"As an adult, we can stand there and talk all day long. We're not going to keep their attention," said Nash. "But when Buster comes out and starts popping wheelies and there's a lot of humor involved, he can hold their attention."
Buster and his sidekick want students to be safe bus riders, know the danger zones around buses, and realize that sometimes grown-ups don't obey the traffic laws.
"Those cars, do they always stop when they're supposed to?" Nash asked the children.
"No!" they replied.
"I learned not to put my hands out the window," said fifth grader Dawson Frey.
"And I learned not to put my head out the window," said second grader Maia Lorick.
"To stay 10 feet away from the bus," said fifth grader Hannah Allen.
Buster loves to inject fun into these serious, life-saving messages.
"I want you to jump around like you got frogs in your shorts," Buster told a teacher, who gladly obliged.
He never misses an opportunity to put teachers to the test.
"You forgot to be at the bus five minutes early didn't you?" Buster teased another teacher.
And he makes the lesson more memorable with his surprise tricks. For instance, he asked a group of teachers to gather for a group picture. When they all said "cheese", he sprayed them with water.
"I thought he was funny, because he played jokes on the teachers," said Hannah.
"He made all the teachers dance," said Dawson.
"Buster the Bus is the one that relays our message to the kids and they remember it," said Nash. "The kids play a big part of how safe that bus can be."
Buster and his sidekick will also visit Ocean Springs elementary schools in the coming weeks. October 18th is School Bus Safety Week.