BSD FutureBus

FutureBus LOGO

"There are no rules here- we're trying to accomplish something."

– Thomas Edison
Synth on Bus

The world needs more kid made things.

The FutureBus was created to make that happen.

It started as a collaboration in 2016 between First Tech Credit Union, TEDx Portland, Gallagher Designs, and the BSD.

From 2016-2019 it's primary mission was to support the BSD Future Ready team to inspire and support kids and teachers.

It's current focus is to support and develop CTE experiences to inspire and support kids and teachers.




“The world needs more kid made things.”

Alex Bannister was one of several employees of First Tech Federal Credit Union who first heard those words at TEDx Portland in 2015. They came from a talk given by our very own G Bundy where he shared that quote, which came from a Beaverton elementary student. The First Tech team was inspired to ask G how they could support our mission. The conversations that followed were instrumental in moving from the idea of a Future Bus to the reality of a Future Bus.

Fast forward to the spring of 2017, when we asked Cody Stoltz, a senior at Westview High School if he would make us a short film. We gave him freedom to create and tell a story that somehow included the Future Bus. He asked a lot of good questions about our team, our vision, our mission, and the short history of the Future Bus. In the end, Cody and his team — Chris Parra, Emily Guthrie, and Katie Rosas — wrote, filmed, edited, and produced a short narrative film that simply blew us away.

This film was created by kids, with kids, and for kids, of all ages.



P.S. This film was made possible by, and we are thankful for, the fantastic community that supports Beaverton Schools, including First Tech Federal Credit Union, The Beaverton Education Foundation, Stumptown Coffee, and Gallagher Design. Thank you one and all.



ACMA Build

“We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.”

-John Dewey

I was recently in a meeting with Bjorn Paige, principal of ACMA (Arts and Communications Magnet Academy) and Moon Knight aficionado. Over the next two years AMCA students and staff will move to another location while the old building is torn down and rebuilt. This has created an opportunity to reflect on the history of this school, originally called C.E. Mason, which Bjorn has done eloquently here . I actually have a connection to this building, and our conversation sparked a number of vivid memories from my childhood.

When I was 9 years old I would ride the bus to Cedar Mill School each morning. On Thursdays I would not walk into school with the other kids.  I would join a small group of other students and board a different bus and leave. We were driven to another building not too far away called C.E. Mason, which housed our district-wide T.A.G. (an acronym that stood for Talented And Gifted) program. This all seemed very normal.

For three years I went to this school with other students from around our district. I guess we were all talented.  We chose from a variety of classes based on our interest, and I remember many of them. I took a class on stop motion animation, where we used clay and 8mm cameras to make movies. One of the movies I made was called Claybreakin’ and it was about these round characters with sweet cardboard sneakers who were learning to breakdance. It was loosely based on the plot of the 1984 movie – Breakin’.

According to IMDB the plot of this movie was “A struggling young jazz dancer meets up with two break-dancers. Together they become the sensation of the street crowds.” Now that I think about it, I am not sure we ever explored the deeper themes of that movie with our own, but we did simulate a decent backslide with a blob of clay and 2 cardboard shoes. (We called it a back slide because that’s what the real breakdancers called it. The streets of Beaverton in the 80’s had a code. It was the time of Earthquake Ethyl’s and The Electric Palace, and nobody who was cool called it a moonwalk.)

We learned some computer programming using LOGO and BASIC. We explored anatomy and dissected cow eyeballs in a makeshift lab. We watched old grainy 16mm movies about crystal growth, and then grew our own crystals in jars. (And then we watched the movies backwards, because you could. Normally if the films had people in them, it was funny because people would be walking backwards and things would magically fall up into their hands. When you watched this movie backwards, you could see giant elaborate crystals shrink very slowly and disappear.) We created and simulated an entire medieval village, including a bartering economy with dried beans, and handmade 3d models of castles, towers, and villages. We were also assigned roles within the social classes of the time. I was lucky to be a knight, which gave me a lot of time to practice drawing my armor and weapons while reciting lines from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I was not the only kid who knew all the lines. I guess in that way we were pretty gifted.

Many of these activities were gateways to deep conversations, thoughtful debates, and critical thinking. But it never felt like “school”. It was some other feeling, like being in a wacky museum where everything is interesting, or being backstage at a play, getting to pull levers and ropes and run the lights.   

For three years, every Thursday meant a field trip to awesome town. At the time, I didn’t pay much attention as to why it was that I got to do this, while most of my peers did not.

I remember that we were chosen for this trip because of a test that measured a particular type of skill. In hindsight, I feel that it was a very narrow skill that valued my abilities, but did not necessarily value the incredible array of talents of my peers who were not on the bus. Had the criteria for the designation of T.A.G. been some other measure, I may well have been one of the students who watched the busses drive away each Thursday morning with a different group of kids inside. How would I have thought of myself knowing that I was not the one who got to go on the bus to the magic school where they made movies and castles? That I was not, at least in the eyes of someone, talented and gifted? Would I have even cared?

I don’t know that I thought of myself as “T.A.G.”, but I certainly felt encouraged, and  thought of myself as a successful student. Affirmations such as these, and the support of my family helped to build my confidence, which helped me persevere through some difficult times later on in school.

Fast forward thirty five years.

Now I drive my car to work and instead of going inside, I get on a very special bus that will take me to work with teachers and kids all around our district. But now I’m the driver. This all seems very normal.

I travel to classrooms and teach a variety of classes based on the interest of our teachers.

At a recent FutureBus visit, ACMA students built a Star Wars themed electric guitar.

I run a class on stop motion animation, where we use clay and Ipads to make movies. One of the movies I someday hope to make with kids will be called, Claybreakin’ 2  which would be loosely based on the plot of the 1984 movie – Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. According to IMDB the plot of this movie was “A developer tries to bulldoze a community recreation center. The local breakdancers try to stop it.” Now that I think about it, how did both Breakin’ movies come out in the same year?

We learn some computer programming using SCRATCH and PYTHON. We explore anatomy using Virtual Reality goggles, navigating our way through the chambers of a human heart. We use CAD software and 3d printers to design and create cities that could sustain a human population on another planet.

When I drive the bus back to the barn, the smells of coffee and diesel exhaust are often accompanied by deep reflection on the day. Even though it’s called the FutureBus, the experiences we try to create are not that different from what I did as a kid at the T.A.G. school years ago. I guess one difference is that now we try to work with every kid regardless of whether they have an acronym after their name.

In a few years, a new school will rise on the grounds of the old C.E. Mason campus. A bus will pull up, but this time, it will carry a 48 year old kid inside, and everyone will get to go on the trip.

I better buy some more clay.


Music Makers

As our first year on the bus came to a close, we finally got a chance to hit the road with one of our favorite projects: building an electric guitar out of a cigar box!  We worked with one of the 7th grade band classes at Cedar Park middle school over several days. Aside from one exploding cigar box, (well, it didn’t exactly explode, it just broke and we were able to fix it) we were able to get all the students through the build in around 7 hours, with a little time to learn some blues after that!

Our friend Colin made a great video that walks you through what this process felt like. We were so excited to get tools back in the schools!




“I feel smart!”

-Quote from an 8th grader after writing his first programming function.

About 200 8th grade AGS 1 students from Meadow Park programmed Ozobots to solve challenges.  Using visual coding and quite a bit of math, they persevered to get their tiny robot to run laps, knock down bowling pins, and escape from a maze.

One purpose of our visit was to expose students to programming, and then to use their programs to make a physical object (the Ozobot) perform a task.  For a number of kids, this was their first exposure to any kind of programming.  Kids worked together to teach themselves the programming environment, and how to upload their programs to the Ozobot using light codes from the screen.  They then worked together to see if they could make their Ozobots complete difficult physical challenges.

Another purpose of our visit was to engage kids in tasks that require them to draw upon and apply their math skills to solve problems.  Even the task of programming a small robot to do a seemingly simple task often requires knowledge of angles, geometry, algebra, -and in some cases- cartesian coordinates, and even functions!  We also chatted about the math that must be going on “under the hood” of these robots that allows them to actually activate the motors and sensors that allow the Ozobot to execute the program.

This is the first step- exposure to something new.  Mr. Fewx and Ms. Mann from Meadow put themselves out there to try something new.  This is the essence of a lifelong learner. Along the way, they provided their students with a new opportunity to see math in a different way, and gain skills in programming and robotics.


FBUS Drawing

This is your bus.

After a recent bus trip to Hazeldale, we received this crayon drawing of the bus.  It was accompanied by a short story about a FutureBus visit.  I was excited to see another cool drawing from a thoughtful kid, like many sent to us over the years.  For some reason, this one brought me right back to the cool Fall morning four days prior.

I remembered having to hop the curb and drive through a huge iron gate to park the bus.  I stumbled in the wet flowerbeds trying to connect a 100 foot extension cord to the building, only to come up just short.  Another slog out through the rain to grab another cord.  People might think that driving the FutureBus is all glory and accolades, but they are missing out on some of the really good stuff –  like when that second trip in the dark ends with your foot ankle deep in a mud puddle and you didn’t bring a second pair of shoes. Robots were plugged in, the coffee started heating up, and within a half hour the bus was ready for action.

Thirty minutes later, young students in puffy coats emerged through heavy metal doors that they could barely push open. They were stoked to see the bus and we were stoked to see them.

Some of them drove Sphero robots at high speed off of jumps and raged off road, over wet cement, until they finally got stuck in barkdust after bouncing off of the tires of the bus. Other kids went inside the bus, perched on cushioned seats, recorded their voices and took pictures. They were learning to program in Scratch to tell stories.  After programming for a bit, these students made their way to the back of the bus where they were mesmerized by the light from the magic sandbox. The laughter and talking that accompanied their storytelling was replaced by the low hum of the technology and the skimming of small hands on sand. They reached into the landscape and made virtual water flow down steep hills and canyons. Sometimes engagement is loud, often it is nearly silent.  

All too soon our time was up, we said goodbye and watched from the bus steps as the kids returned to their classrooms, leaving us standing quietly in the rain. Another opportunity to step into ankle deep puddles while coiling up cords in the rain. After packing up the robots and securing the sandbox, I drove off into the dark morning.

Another wet, awesome, FutureBus visit in the books.  A few days later, when we received the drawing I mentioned before, it came with a note from the teacher.  She said that this student had been a very reluctant writer, and that this was, in fact, the very first time this student ever wrote a story.  Suddenly the clear message, the beginning, middle, end, and the thoughtful description of the sand took on new meaning.  This wasn’t just another piece of writing, this was the very first story that this child had ever written.

In education we are often focused on the word “differentiation”. It describes how we adjust our teaching to meet the individual needs of our students. Some students can create and write a story when they are asked. Others may need a suggestion or a sentence frame to get started. This student needed a 28,000 pound bus full of robots and a magic sandbox. And someone to get up early, drive through the rain, and bring it to them.

That’s what we do.  And this kid is why we do it.

What does it take to inspire one imagination? To help a child overcome challenges and create?

To write their first story?

It takes everything.

To our students, we want you to know: YOU are worth everything.

This is your bus. We will see you soon.