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Case Studies Security

Keeping an Eye on School Bus Passengers

Monitoring every journey

A small Texas company that repaired school bus seats patented a video recorder for school buses and came to us for help. 

MTSI developed a 12-volt VCR with an ignition key interface. The VCR microcomputer began recording when the bus started, and shut down gracefully when the vehicle stopped. A stainless steel case with rubber shock mounts for the VCR increased durability, and MTSI hardened the circuits to survive extreme automotive electrical issues — such as “load dump” from an alternator suddenly being switched off — along with reverse battery and overvoltage protection.

The first school bus to use the recorder was in the town of Crowley, 10 miles south of Fort Worth, Texas. Within a few weeks, there was an incident when a student refused to sit down and then harassed the bus driver. The driver pointed to the camera and told the student they would be suspended from the bus if they did not behave. The students looked at the camera, raised a finger, and said a four-letter word. 

The student was banned from the bus and sent home with a note.

The student’s mother arrived at the school principal’s office to protest. The transportation director pressed play and they watched the video.  “Stop!” the woman said at a key moment. “I see where the problem is. I assure you that if you let her on, she will be a model prisoner.” 

After a brief discussion, they agreed to try it out. The school’s transportation director told MTSI that the student never said a word again, and sat quietly for the rest of the year. 

MTSI went on to manufacture tens of thousands of these systems — filling a 40-foot-long trailer each week. An advanced model came equipped with turn signals, brakes, a speedometer, color overlay, and an indicator to mark when the stop sign was out. The same circuits were also adapted for police vehicles. 

It was a very reliable and useful system — and extremely rugged.

For example, the self-calibrating speedometer was a simple sensor at the end of a cable, bolted to anything that rotated such as the driveshaft, but surrounded by a very hard plastic shell that could withstand extreme temperatures and shock. 

The only complaint MTSI received was from an Arkansas school district experiencing a lot of breakage. A tech flew there and discovered that vandals used hammers to break it off.

At another very large school district, the school bus driver also worked as the football coach. A local T.V. news crew aired an investigative story showing him driving at very high rates of speed and weaving in and out of traffic, coming back from a game with the team on board. The T.V. crew had followed him back from the game. 

We received another large order for more video cameras within days from that district.