Preston - Since members of the Preston Plains Middle School computer club used First Selectman Robert Congdon's life-threatening injury in May as the theme for an award-winning technology project, it was fitting that the students would bring their show to the Board of Selectmen meeting Thursday.
Given the theme "nature's fury" by the FIRST Lego League robotics and smartphone app competition, the seven students recalled how last May, Congdon - who also serves as public works director - had just finished cutting a large tree limb that had fallen on River Road when another limb crashed down upon him, knocking him unconscious and causing internal bleeding.
The seventh-graders invented Fall Call, an app which would detect when the person carrying the phone has a sudden fall or change in position. The app would vibrate and flash lights, and if the carrier does not turn off the program, it would automatically call the person's emergency contacts programmed into the phone.
The Computer Crew first won the robotics portion of the regional competition Nov. 16, as their Lego robot deftly maneuvered through a model of a storm-ravaged village. On Dec. 7 at the state competition, the students won first place among 48 teams competing for their presentation that included a skit loosely based on Congdon's mishap.
Nathaniel Crary donned a hardhat and operated a toy chainsaw as club member and Jillian Irvine narrated the situation and explained how the group got the idea for Fall Call. Savannah Beaupre, dressed as a tree, stood ready.
Suddenly, Beaupre sent her tree limb arm crashing down onto Crary's head. He crumpled to the ground. If Crary was in an isolated area, he might lie there for hours before someone found him, the students said, pointing out that about 200 chainsaw accidents occur each year.
The club members reset the scene to show how it would have happened with the Fall Call app on Crary's phone.
The limb again crashed onto his head, and down he went. His phone app recognized the sudden jolt and activated Fall Call. Within seconds, his brother, played by Aidan Gallagher, got the alert on his phone and knew his brother was in trouble.
Max Migliaccio, dressed as an EMT and carrying a medical kit, told Crary "an ambulance is on its way, thanks to Fall Call."
Fall Call wouldn't just be for chainsaw operators, the students said. Hikers, bikers, construction workers or roofers could activate the app for safer working conditions. Younger people, athletes and adventurers would rather carry a smartphone with an app like Fall Call than wear a Life Alert style device, they said.
The audience of about a dozen people at the Board of Selectmen meeting applauded the students' performance and peppered them with questions about their project, their club and future endeavors.
Despite their success at the state level, the students said Connecticut schools were not chosen to compete in the national competition in St. Louis. So now they await the Lego competition guidelines for next year, which will carry the theme of education.
The club meets after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays under the guidance of club coach and sixth-grade teacher Dawn Riley and also works on projects during some study halls.
"The town of Preston is proud of you," Congdon said after the skit. "Good job."