Nation: North Carolina robot casting competition

CONCORD, N.C. – Better fishing through robotics.

That was the goal for 14 engineering teams from the University of North Carolina/Charlotte, as they recently engaged in a casting contest hosted by Riley's Catch, a high school fishing club, at Bass Pro Shops here.

Judged on distance, accuracy, and repeatability, "every team clearly saw a need for disabled fishermen at every level," said Bill Frazier, conservation director for the North Carolina B.A.S.S. Nation and a mentor for Riley's Catch, which frequently teams with the state's B.A.S.S. Youth membership for activities.  

While The Outcasters  made a 106-foot cast and won the competition, "all teams did excellent research on the market numbers and spending, and then tied it to disabled segments," added Frazier who also served as one of the judges  for the "shark tank" presentations following the  competition. "All knew this would be a benefit for DAV's (disabled American veterans) in particular."

During the presentation, each team explained why its robot prototype would make a good investment opportunity

Some of the designs were a little bulky, while others were more compact and easily could be mounted to a wheelchair or other prop, in much the same way that electronics are mounted to bass boats.

"These folks were on it," the conservation director said. "Their return on investment was as a coin-operated, pier-mounted device. Any handicapped person could use it, even if they did not have gear.

"They even had them tagged to Bluetooth and voice activated."

Rod Goodall and Tom Laymon of Riley's Catch also served as judges, as did Chris Cady of Scott Clark Toyota, Chunks Corbett of Elevation Church, James Shipley of NAS Athletics, and Kaye Carroway and Chris Goodrum of YMCA.

The death of Laymon's son, Riley, in a 2012 auto accident, served as the inspiration for the founding of Riley's Catch at Weddington High School. Just before his death, he had written a letter to one of his teachers, proposing the formation of a bass fishing club.

In explaining the relationship between B.A.S.S. Youth and Riley's Catch, Frazier said, the latter has participated in and hosted both tournaments and events. "We (B.A.S.S. Youth) have raised money for and given it to them without strings. I am a member of both groups."

He added that Riley's Catch is visionary is in its quest to get more people involved in fishing. "They are acquiring a trailer that they'll wrap, plug in a big screen TV, and go to schools and do educational programs for kids who are not traditional outdoors people."