To hear Corben Tannahill tell it, there wasn’t much of a grand plan behind his award-winning creation, the “Angler’s Friend.”
The outdoor case was simply a practical response to a nagging problem.
“We’d go down to the lake, and the stuff would be in the back of the van, and it’d all get tangled together, so we decided, ‘Let’s find a solution,’” said Tannahill, a Shawnee Mission North senior and an avid fisherman.
“It was a personal problem I was having with my gear that I paid good money for, and I wanted to solve it. Then I thought, ‘Hey, other people might use this, too.’”
A short YouTube video Tannahill made for “Angler’s Friend” describes the “fishing case you can wear,” as a sturdy, dependable pack that “organizes your rods, reels and tackle in a space-efficient manner.”
Although he’s modest about the invention, Tannahill was recently lauded for “Angler’s Friend.”
In November, he was notified he’d received first place in the 2014 International Torrance Legacy Creativity Award in the arts and leisure category.
“The judges were impressed with the quality and clarity of your work and wish you well in your future endeavors,” wrote Connie Phelps, gifted program director/associate professor at Emporia State University and Torrance Legacy Creativity Award inventions chairwoman, in an email to Tannahill.
Tannahill’s senior’s award application was displayed Nov. 13-16 at the National Association for Gifted Children’s Annual Convention and Exhibition in Baltimore, Md.
Tannahill said he was encouraged to submit “Angler’s Friend” by his gifted teacher, Polly Krapes. He said he was humbled when learning he’d won.
“I had a ‘what the heck’ mentality, just apply for it and see where it goes,” he said. “… I was surprised and really grateful (it won). It didn’t seem like it was anything that cool, just a project I was working on, and here it goes and wins.”
Krapes said she’s proud of her student’s accomplishment.
“He’s taken the time to think through a product that will help people in their lives,” she said. “I think that kind of effort and innovation deserves recognition.
“Corben is innovative and industrious and that’s rare to find these days. I am delighted to see him honored for coming up with a great idea and working to make it a reality.”
Tannahill, who created “Angler’s Friend” with his father, David, has a provisional patent on the case. Father and son are on their fourth prototype, and are exploring ways to bring the case to the fishing and outdoor market.
“We’re just seeing which one ends up being the most attractive,” said Tannahill, who plans to study business next year at Kansas State University. “One would be actually producing the product, so we’re looking at who can make it and what the process could look like and how to do it economically. Another option is to license it. … Ultimately, it would be great if somebody … would just want to buy the patent from us.”
“Angler’s Friend,” the recognition that came with it and the business possibilities it represents in the future wouldn’t have been possible, Tannahill said, without having an enthusiasm for fishing.
He fell in love with the sport in seventh grade, after his father encouraged him to try it during a family trip to the Lake of the Ozarks.
“There’s something really, really fun that I think a lot of anglers can relate to, and that’s the love of the catch, and the fight you’re in when you’re reeling in a fish,” he said. “It’s really thrilling to actually be in that struggle with the fish and to reel it in. It’s like this magical feeling you get when you’re in that fight.”