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May 19, 2011  |   Comments (18)   |   Post a comment

Former teacher invents bus noise alarm


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Former school teacher Stephen Dawson said his noise alarm prototype could be integrated into a bus security camera, mobile two-way radio or GPS system to help control the noise level on a bus.

Former school teacher Stephen Dawson said his noise alarm prototype could be integrated into a bus security camera, mobile two-way radio or GPS system to help control the noise level on a bus.

VANCOUVER, Wash. — Former school teacher Stephen Dawson is well acquainted with the challenges of supervising rowdy students. While working as a teacher, Dawson found that the noise in his classroom rose to unmanageable levels, especially when students were working together in large groups.

"[The students] usually start out quiet, but then become louder and louder until they are oblivious to their noise level. Often, they are not even aware of how loud they are," Dawson explained in an interview with SBF.

Dawson came up with a plan. He approached an Oregon State University faculty member in the electrical engineering department about creating a noise level alarm. Once a prototype had been created, Dawson introduced it to his classroom.

"After the alarm went off quite a few times, the students developed an intuitive sense about their noise level so that the alarm rarely sounded," Dawson said. "Sometimes I used incentives — rewards — for their complying, but most of the time I didn't need to, as most students ... encouraged the others to be quieter. They could talk, but the alarm reminded them when their noise level became excessive."

It wasn't until later that Dawson realized his device could be equally applicable in a school bus environment.

Dawson, who has done extensive research on the subject, said that many incidents have occurred because bus drivers do not have an effective means of quieting students. Not only is noise distracting to the bus driver, it also can conceal issues such as bullying or assault because the driver cannot hear what is happening in his or her bus over the din.

Dawson pointed out that "there's a lot of research that shows that noise level causes aggression. And these bus drivers — who are just normal people — when they get around this loud sound every day ... it causes stress and it affects how they act with the kids."

Dawson's device allows the user to set a threshold level — the noise level that should not be exceeded — as well as adjust the sound or volume of the alarm itself.

"When the ambient noise level on the bus reaches the set alarm threshold, an alarm goes off to indicate to the students that their noise is too loud — as determined by the driver or school district," he said. "The alarm will continue to sound until either the driver manually turns it off or the noise level in the bus goes below the preset noise level threshold."

Dawson has submitted a patent application for the device and is currently approaching companies about developing the alarm for the school bus market. His finished prototype, he said, could be integrated into the video survelliance on a bus, a mobile two-way radio or GPS system.

"Now it's about trying to get people to see that this is an age-old problem and it's never really been addressed," he added. "There hasn't been something that will really work that I know of, and I really believe that this [alarm] will be effective."


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Hi Steven. Great idea. I hoped u partnered up already with a company and in production. Do u got any other variations of the product in play?

George    |    Apr 11, 2013 12:17 AM

I have a home daycare where the daily noises can get quite excessive. I care for several 8-10 year old boys :-) Anyway, I am very interested in using this device in my home. You mentioned that you only have a prototype for the use in school buses, but is there anyway you would be able to make one for me to use in my home (I don't require any professional assembly or prettiness, just functionality). I'd be happy to give you feedback that you could use to help sell your product. :-)

Lee    |    Jan 13, 2012 11:48 AM

Clyde, At the present time there is only a prototype. There probably will need some modifications for school buses, but this wouldn't be a big deal. I am looking for a company to partner with such as a manufacturer of bus video cameras in which the device would be integrated with. I know this will work, it works with all ages of students, K-12.

Stephen    |    Nov 29, 2011 08:16 PM

Are the bus "Noise Alarms" available to purchase and try? Very interested.

Clyde    |    Nov 29, 2011 08:49 AM

Thanks for sharing your experience Dane. With the correct approach and training, I believe this would be just as successful in school buses

Stephen    |    Nov 02, 2011 10:53 PM

My 4th grade teacher Mrs. Riley at Olympic Hills Elementary School in Seattle used a similar device in 1984. She had a noise meter of some kind that she could set the limit on. Anytime the noise exceeded this it would set off an alarm. It was very effective at lowering classroom noise and incentives were offered if we didn't set the alarm off at all during the specified period. I applaud the effort but this is old technology and Mrs. Riley gets the credit before you do albeit your effort to incorporate it into the bus is laudable.

Dane    |    Nov 02, 2011 07:12 PM

“This project would provide a unique examination of the school bus driver’s work situation and would provide insight into the causes of unsafe and potentially injurious distractions. Potentially regulatory actions may be identified that enhance and promote safe school bus operations as well as protect student passengers as well as highway users.” I believe it is time for a study to look into the distractions that school bus drivers deal with on a daily basis. The VTTI study would be a good start.

Stephen    |    Sep 11, 2011 08:51 AM

that have plagued school buses with this age-old problem. There is a pressing need for a school bus study to investigate school bus driver distraction. The Transportation Board said it should be a priority to investigate immediately since not is much known about distraction issues concerning school bus driving. The Center of Truck and Bus Safety is one of nine divisions of research at VTTI. The aim of the center is to conduct research that advances the state of knowledge in the truck and bus safety domain and provides pragmatic solutions to real-world problems. The Transportation Research Board’s Research Needs Statements study, proposed in 2010 by the researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute‘s Center of Truck and Bus Safety, will collect naturalistic, real-time data of school bus drivers performing their normal driving tasks during bus routes. One of their areas of interest includes noise levels on school buses. The research team stated that not much is known about the distraction issues in school bus driving scenarios and therefore should be a priority to investigate immediately. (Transportation Research Board, Identification Of Critical Issues Involving School Bus Safety. 2010 http://rns.trb.org/dproject.asp?n=25341) Here are some of the key points of the proposed study: “The research team would work closely with school transportation providers to instrument numerous school buses with data collection systems. These systems would capture video, sound, and vehicle kinematic data for further analysis. A data reduction strategy similar to the one used in the Naturalistic Truck Study performed by VTTI could be employed to identify safety-critical events. These events could then be analyzed to characterize the associated driving environment (i.e. eye glances, distractions, etc.) and passenger conduct.” It would also include measuring noise levels in the buses using noise meters. “This project would provide a unique examination of the school bus

Stephen    |    Sep 11, 2011 08:50 AM

VIRGINIA TECH TRANSPORTATION INSTITUTE Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has a reputation as one of the leading transportation research institutions in the nation. Its cutting–edge research is affecting significant change in public policies in the transportation domain on both the state and national levels. VTTI has conducted groundbreaking research through it use of naturalistic driving studies using sophisticated cameras and instrumentation in participants’ personal vehicles. With the introduction of naturalistic driving studies that record drivers (through continuous and kinematic sensors) in actual driving situations, there is now a scientific method to study driver behavior in real-world driving conditions in the presence of real-world daily pressures. VTTI's team of professionals conducts applied research to solve various transportation challenges. With real–world research results, VTTI affects significant change in public policies on the state, national, and international levels with the ultimate goal of saving lives on our highways. A very well known groundbreaking study that VTTI conducted and co-sponsored by the National Transportation Safety Administration, was the 100-Car Naturalistic Study. This was the first study of its kind using real-time data of cars, involving cameras in the car to pinpoint specific behaviors that preceded crashes. Recently, another real-time naturalistic study using video cameras was concluded. This successful study, sponsored by the Federal Motor Carrier Administration, was also conducted by VTTI to analyze the risk of commercial truck and bus drivers’(transit and motor coach buses only) activities or actions that distract their attention away from the driving task. PROPOSED SCHOOL BUS DISTRACTION STUDY BY VTTI The reason I mentioned the above studies is that VTTI has already proposed a school bus driver distraction study which can be just as successful in providing a basis for decision-making and unique insights tha

Stephen    |    Sep 11, 2011 08:45 AM

Thank you for your encouraging comments. I am the one that invented the Bus Noise Alarm. I have done extensive research regarding this problem. Most people do not realize the responsibility bus drivers have, what they put up with and how little support they have. Also, there is a lot of research on noise that affects the children and bus drivers. I believe this device will make a significant difference for everyone involved in school bus transportation. I also believe there needs to be federal laws enacted to limit the noise levels.

Stephen Dawson    |    Aug 21, 2011 10:12 AM

This device sounds to go to be true. Please hurry an have it put into the market so i can be sure to get two, because i have two school buses. Good luck Stephen keep up with this great idea

Sherry Beauvais    |    Aug 18, 2011 04:26 PM

Does the device come with visual warnings also? Possibly small LED lights in different colors to indidcate the intensity of the sound as it increases? Green/low, yellow/increased, red/top level all before the alarm goes off? Just a thought.

Jeff    |    May 30, 2011 05:00 AM

I want one for my school bus too. What a great ideal this is. Bus drivers could keep their eyes on the road more and not have to take their eyes off the road more to remind students they are becoming too loud on the bus, now we need one to remind students to set in their bus seats as well, only negative part I can see is This type of thing could really become a game though for some students who want to make the buzzer go off, just like many students like to look in the cameras on the buses and smile at it. I still think this could be such a useful tool on school buses.

Billy    |    May 22, 2011 12:09 PM

I want one!! Bad news is It ain't past the legal dept.

bob the bus man    |    May 21, 2011 07:14 PM

I really liked the idea of the inventor Stephen Dawson and I want to thank this magazine for post this awesome idea. I'm sure it would prevent lots of accidents and in my opinion that should be a federal law to all the buses in US.

Mara Araujo    |    May 21, 2011 07:11 PM

Where can I buy them? Great Idea!

Lionel Pinn    |    May 20, 2011 10:03 AM

This is one of the best ideas I've ever read about in SBF or anywhere! I'm going to post a copy of it on the bulletin board at transportation! I hope this device becomes available to all school bus drivers or perhaps even standard equipment on new buses!

Geoff bridgman    |    May 20, 2011 09:54 AM

We need that in our school system for busses.......

Rhonda    |    May 20, 2011 07:29 AM

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