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ITRC tech toys to further research initiatives

Gene Kanak
USBC Communications
Published: November 13, 2009 | Bowl.com
Think of the USBC Equipment Specifications and Certifications team as the Walter Ray Williams Jr., Tiger Woods or Lebron James of bowling research and testing because, when it comes to understanding the nuances of bowling ball motion and other factors that influence how and why pins fall, this group has no equal.

So, what happens when those talented individuals are given access to state-of-the-art equipment and the most technically-advanced facility the sport has to offer? We will get the answer to that question when the International Training and Research Center (ITRC) opens for business, which is scheduled to happen in January 2010, just in time for the Jan. 25 grand opening of the International Bowling Campus in Arlington, Texas.

The ITRC's research area will house six lanes that feature various contemporary wood and synthetic lane surfaces. The Equipment Specifications and Certifications team will have the ability to dress those lanes using several different conditioning machines and products. This will give the team the ability to conduct real-world oil pattern research, like that currently being done for the USBC Red, White and Blue patterns, and continue working cooperatively with representatives from USBC Sport Bowling, the World Tenpin Bowling Association and other outside entities on pattern testing and development projects.

So, how does the team plan to get those balls rolling down the lanes? Scientific study requires duplication of speed, launch angle, rev rate and more, so the team will call upon its most-technically-advanced employee, its new, yet-to-be named bowling ball throwing robot.

The new robot, which was brought online to replace "Harry", USBC's former ball-bot, is expected to arrive on campus in early spring. When it does, it will be put to work right away.

"The new robot is definitely one of the biggest benefits of the new facility," USBC Technical Director Steve Kloempken said. "This machine will be much more advanced and precise than Harry was, so we will be able to conduct more accurate tests with a wider range of variables than ever before."

Those tests will be aided by the presence of Super C.A.T.S (Computer-Aided Tracking System), which was used in the Ball Motion Study and is critical to helping visually identify transition into and out of the three phases of bowling ball motion: skid, hook and roll.

With all of these wonderful tech tools at their disposal, the Equipment Specifications and Certifications team plans to continue its groundbreaking research of pin carry, which focuses on pocket entry and exit angles and the impact pit-end products - kick plates, flat gutters and more - have on scoring. It also will continue pin and ball testing and certification as well as development of various coaching-related products and training aids.

Additional research and testing initiatives are continually designed and investigated as the need arises. The goal of those initiatives, and that of the Equipment Specifications and Certifications team as a whole, is to examine the bowling environment to make sure all USBC members are provided with a fair playing field, which leads to a more positive experience for bowlers and greater credibility for the sport.

"The ITRC will be the most technically-advanced research and testing facility the sport of bowling has ever seen," Kloempken said. "It will allow the Equipment Specifications and Certifications team to go further and dig deeper than it ever has before. That will lead to a high caliber of research, new specifications and a greater understanding of our sport. That prospect is very exciting to me and my team, and it should be exciting to USBC members as well."

For more information on the International Training and Research Center, visit bowlingitrc.com.

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