Even though the Magic School Bus can go to outer space and all, Estelle's Brilliant Bus seems to be one-upping its fictional predecessor in terms of innovative educational motor vehicles.
Created by Estella Pyfrom, Estelle's Brilliant Bus provides free, computer-based tutoring for thousands of underprivileged students by rolling 17 computers around in a bus connected to high-speed Internet. The vehicle ventures to neighborhoods without access to technology, or where residents' priorities are on more urgent needs such as food, mortgages and rent.
Pyfrom spent her life savings on the project, which she earned working as a guidance counselor in Palm Beach County, Florida. She realized there was a great digital divide between poor students and others.
"If people don't have some knowledge of technology, they're going to be limited," the 76-year-old told CNN. "It's absolutely essential that they get involved technologically."
While Ms. Frizzle's enchanted ride was pretty impressive back in the day - it was able to transcend human digestion after all! - the Magic School Bus falls short of Pyfrom's invention.
Estelle's Brilliant Bus rolls in 21st century style.
- The Brilliant Bus is available for anyone aged 3 to senior citizen
- It travels to schools, shelters and community centers, wherever there is need and want; its slogan: "Have Knowledge, Will Travel."
- There are three rules: no gum, no Facebook, no nonsense.
- Programs reinforce state-mandated curricula.
- Users receive their own account login and password, allowing them to continue work when they leave. They can only advance to the next level when they reach 90% proficiency in the current one.
- Additional courses teach GED and college preparatory assistance, anti-bullying and peer mediation classes, and student leadership training.
- The bus delivers meals to 3,000 residents each month through a partnership with a community nonprofit.
- Pyfrom has spent about $1 million of her own dollars on the bus.
Pyfrom, who is nominated for CNN's Hero of the Year, aims to bring the bus around the country if she can find financial support.
"I don't think about what I'm not able to do or not going to be able to do," she said. "We've got to keep rolling. We're going to keep taking the service to the neighborhoods, and we are going to keep making a difference."