By Ron Mott, NBC News correspondent
Many school bus rides offer a mix of sleeping students, others horsing around and, perhaps, a few with their heads in books.
In tonight's "Making a Difference" report we'll introduce you to the kids who ride Bus No. 46 in the small, impoverished town of Grapevine, Ark., an hour south of Little Rock. They're quickly becoming math and science wizards during their long trek to and from campus on what they call the "magic" school bus.
They're part of a experimental program called Aspirnauts (aspire, seek, achieve) that connects them to advanced online courses through donated laptops, connected to the Web while on the move. Younger students are engaged with high-tech podcasts through video iPods.
The experimental program was started by Vanderbilt University medical scientist Billy Hudson, who was looking for a unique way to give back to his village, as he refers to his hometown. One day he tagged along for the bus ride - upwards of an hour and a half each way - and realized a lot of time was not being utilized.
"I said, 'Wait a minute. There has to be a better way'," Hudson says.
As soon as the kids plop themselves down on the padded brown seats, they reach for their laptop or iPod.
The results of this immersion are paying off in high test scores. Several of the students, some still in middle school, have taken college admissions tests as a benchmark and have scored as well as graduating seniors.
Hudson says he's hopeful the program can be replicated in other rural communities around the country. His wife, Julie, a doctor, manages the day-to-day operations and fundraising, and is awaiting a response to a $2 million federal grant that seeks to expand the program for other students in Grapevine who ride the bus to school.