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“The Department of Education Computer Bus is off on its travels again, thanks to USA Internet Giant ORACLE...

Last year it was Earls Court. This Year it's Bristol!

The Computer Bus is setting off to join around a hundred other converted buses from all over the country for the Big Bus Bash on Thursday 6th July, Hengrove Park, Bristol. The event, which will be held over three days, is the first of its kind run by the National Playbus Association charity. The weekend will kick off with the Working on Wheels Convention, for Playbus staff, local government and other benefactors and officials.

On Saturday and Sunday the parkland will be open to the public, with a fun packed weekend for an expected 10,000 visitors who will be able to visit all the buses, including the Island' s Computer Bus. Buses from as far away as Kiev in the Ukraine are expected to attend.

According to Department of Education Advisory Teacher Alex Townsend who thought up the Computerbus idea: "We are delighted to be invited to represent the Island once again at a high-profile UK event. Thanks to Oracle and local sponsors David Castle and Tours Isle of Man, all the costs are being met. Oracle are paying the shipping, travel and accommodation costs, whilst Tours - who as co-sponsors keep the bus on the road all year, are making sure we make the journey safely there and back."

The schedule is once again as punishing as ever, both for the 23-year-old ex-IoM Transport single decker, and its somewhat older driver. According to Alex: "Last July 4th we were pride of place on the apron at the front of Earls Court on the Sunday afternoon, but a few hours and a midnight boat later we were at Tynwald Fair!"

"This year it is the other way round!! We're doing Tynwald on Wednesday, and catching the evening sailing to take part in a convoy of around 100 converted buses through Bristol the next day."

And the pace doesn't stop there. "After Leaving Bristol on Sunday afternoon, we'll be back in business at Ballacloan Infants in Douglas on Monday morning. There's just no slack in the schedule!"

Alex is taking the 400 mile return journey to Bristol, with help from a Ian Bleer, a driver/mechanic from Tours. Alex commented: "Ian accompanied the Bus back from Earl's Court last year, and will be on hand with his toolkit and technical know-how, if the bus develops any mechanical faults

The return journey to London last year took place without incident.

The Manx Telecomputer Bus, has been serving the Island for the past two years. The bus visits all 35 primary schools on the Island, and has also worked with three of the Island's secondary schools.

It contains 21 computers with full internet and e-mail access, and within minutes can become a fully functional part of a school computer network. Around 7000 of the Island's school children and their teachers have benefited from bus since its introduction. As well as BBC Tomorrow's World Live, the bus has had a full page article in the Daily Express, a double page spread in the prestigeous Times Educational Supplement (TES), MacFormat magazine, and numerous features in the Island's media. Its own website www.computerbus.com was selected from a national field as one of the top ten school-produced websites in the UK by the TES this time last year, where you will be able to keep up with events on the Bristol trip.

Main local sponsors are Manx Telecom, who paid for the initial conversion of the bus in 1998, and most recently paid for an internal refit during the Easter holidays. Internet support is from Castletown-based PDMS Advanced Systems.

Department of Education ICT Advisor John Thornley said: "We are all very excited about the Big Bus Bash. It will give us a chance to share our experiences and ideas with other converted buses from all over the country. It will be a busy, but fun packed weekend"

The Big Bus Bash has been organised by National Playbus Association with funding from the National Lottery and software company Oracle, as part of its Think.com project. Think.com is an educational technology solution which allows schoolchildren and teachers to create protected online learning communities to enhance the classroom learning experience using the Internet, and as 'Codename Scoop" was secretly piloted for Oracle on the Computer Bus outside Kensington Road Youth Centre early in 1999.

Over 35,000 people board Playbuses every year. Working with a wide cross-section of the public, from parent and toddler groups through to health promotion and youth groups, Playbuses fulfil a vital role in the communities they serve. The National Playbus Association serves over 230 members, promoting the benefits of mobile community work.



©2008 Isle of Man Department of Education All Rights Reserved

The Computerbus made its second trip to the UK in July 2000 - again courtesy of Oracle and Codename Scoop - or think.com as it had become.

No pictures of the event have survived, following the theft of a laptop in Blackpool later that year, but the following graphics and text are taken from the original computerbus website...

(The orange Big Bus Bash sticker remains to this day displayed in the windscreen of the revamped computer bus.)