One of the most important members of the Equipment Specifications and Certifications team at the United States Bowling Congress isn't a scientist, it's a state-of-the-art ball-throwing robot named E.A.R.L.
E.A.R.L. (Enhanced Automated Robotic Launcher) is designed to be able to consistently simulate any type of bowling style with an accuracy and consistency on the lanes that no human bowler can achieve. Those qualities make E.A.R.L. invaluable in the many studies necessary to keep up with the ever-changing bowling ball industry.
The newest member of the team, E.A.R.L. has been brought in to replace the organization's first robot, Harry, which was introduced in 1999 and recently was retired after more than a decade of research.
Harry was a unique, computer-controlled hybrid machine partly encased in safety glass that combined hydraulics, air pressure and electronics to power a mechanical arm that delivered bowling balls to help test balls, lanes, pins and oil patterns. Harry was similar to the United States Golf Association's robotic golfer "Iron Byron," whose mechanical arm swings golf clubs for research purposes.
E.A.R.L. has more automated features than Harry and can throw the ball left-handed or right-handed. It can consistently duplicate shot after shot at ball speeds anywhere from 10-24 miles per hour and rev rates anywhere from 50-900 rpm, a significantly wider range than its predecessor.
Pairing the robot and the International Training and Research Center's computerize ball-tracking program, a computer and sensor system that precisely tracks bowling ball location and speed as it travels down a lane, gives USBC a key advantage in the sophisticated tracking and measurement of ball motion data.
The main goal of the ball motion studies, started in 2005, is to gather data about the complex dynamics and inner motion characteristics of today's high-tech bowling balls. USBC is testing to determine how balls with different properties and characteristics act together, then use this and other information obtained in working with bowling ball manufacturers and other industry leaders to set performance-based specifications for bowling balls used in USBC-certified competition.
E.A.R.L. was named by USBC Junior Gold youth bowler Melissa Stewart of Roswell, Ga. She figured if bowling great Earl Anthony's nickname was "The Machine," then it was only "fitting to name the new ball-throwing robot for a bowler with machine-like characteristics."Read More
The Equipment & Specifications Department within the United States Bowling Congress is responsible for setting and governing the specification limits of all equipment and machinery used in the sport. Recently, one of the department's objectives was defined as understanding which bowling ball properties affect ball motion and whether current or new specifications for bowling equipment need to be modified or developed. The full report of this research can be found by clicking on the link below.
Since completion of the Ball Motion Study in 2008, USBC has stated that if factors were determined to have a high impact on ball motion, a specification would be developed if one was not in place. Conversely, if factors were determined to have a lesser impact on ball motion, further studies would be conducted to investigate if modifying or removing specifications relating to those elements needed to occur.
Bowlers, pro shop operators, some manufacturers and much of the industry has expressed concerns that static weights are no longer relevant in today’s world of high-performance bowling balls that are affected more by ball dynamics and cover stock chemistry. Many called for an increase in the maximum static weight allowance or an outright elimination of the USBC static weight specification altogether.
In response, the USBC began studying the degree to which static weights affect ball motion. This study – partially completed this past May 2011 – illustrated that if the current USBC static weight limits were eliminated or increased, the typical three-phase motion of bowling balls as they travel down a lane (skid, hook, then roll) would be significantly altered. A fourth phase of unpredictable motion begins to occur that would cause problems for bowlers and pro shop operators leading to an undesirable effect on the lanes.
Vision Statement: To uphold the credibility of bowling by being the leading source of technical information.
Mission Statement: Through our passion we bring science, technology and bowling together in order to solve problems, answer questions, and implement specifications. We accomplish this by providing expert technical services and sound statistical analyses to ensure the future of bowling.About
The Equipment Specifications and Certifications Team: research engineers, a research chemist and research technicians test bowling balls, pins, lane surfaces and oils to make sure that those four factors of the sport meet the standards set by USBC before they can be used in USBC-certified leagues or tournaments.
A significant amount of resources and behind-the-scenes effort are invested by the Equipment Specifications and Certifications Team to make sure that no matter what center you're bowling in across the country or around the world, your bowling experience is as fair as it is enjoyable. When you're bowling well, you're enjoying the sport more. This team of individuals works closely with the USBC coaching department and the training side of the ITRC (International Training and Research Center) to assist in developing new technologies that will help you improve your game.
In addition to setting and enforcing specifications for bowling equipment, the team also helps uphold the credibility of the sport and makes competition fair by inspecting lane beds in bowling centers to ensure that they meet USBC standards.
USBC local association officials visit bowling centers in their areas annually and use a variety of tools and instruments to perform a physical inspection of the lanes and their adjacent components such as the channels, channel depths, pin spots, and pin deck. Center inspections may begin April 1 and must be completed by Aug. 31.
USBC rules state that bowling centers must renew their certification by Sept. 1 to host any USBC certified competition for that season.
Associations also perform random inspections of the oil applied to lanes in bowling centers to ensure that they meet USBC guidelines for oil application. Sometimes referred to as conditioner, lane oil protects the lane surface and affects the difficulty level of the sport. Lane oil inspections ensure playing field uniformity per USBC guidelines so that USBC league bowlers in Maine are competing on lanes in the same shape as bowlers in California.
The USBC Equipment Specifications and Certifications Committee has adopted a new specification for all bowling balls approved for competition on or after July 1, 2010. The new specification will raise the allowable lower-limit radius of gyration (RG) measurement to 2.460 inches up from 2.430 inches.
USBC has developed this Internet-based training program for lane certification and inspection. Learning how to do inspections has never been easier.
CLIP capitalizes on technology to upgrade the old Certified Lane Inspectors Workshops. It provides individuals with proof they are trained in certification and lane dressing inspection and gives current inspectors who did not complete the old training a way to obtain a card/certificate. All in a way that attracts new and younger individuals and trains them to inspect.
By clicking the links to the left, you can access the Lane Inspector Manual and take the inspector exam. bowl.com also provides additional services such as the latest news on lane inspection and certification and a discussion forum so you can share information and experiences with other inspectors.
This training program is designed to give individuals a way to document the completion of lane inspection training.
Please note that the training program will not "certify" and/or provide a number to those individuals that successfully complete the program. However, individuals that pass the exam will receive a certificate and a card.
Upon completion of the CLIP, we recommend that you contact your local bowling association. The local association will be able to provide the hands on training that will assist you in becoming a fully qualified lane inspector.
The local association can issue credentials stating that an individual is qualified to perform certification and/or lane dressing inspections for the association.
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December 17, 2009
Understanding the USBC approval process
May 5, 2009
USBC begins research on bowling ball entry, exit angles
October 15, 2008
USBC's bowling ball research demonstrates world-class innovation
September 18, 2008
Bowling ball science on National Public Radio
May 17, 2008
USBC bowling ball motion study concludes
April 1, 2008
USBC develops new biomechanics technology for bowling
March 13, 2008
USBC technology contest champion crowned
February 28, 2008
USBC proactive in facility, equipment standards group
January 11, 2008
Research complete on USBC bowling ball motion study
December 17, 2007
Lane Surface Task Force lays foundation for future research
December 1, 2007
USBC sets specification for lane oil viscosity
November 21, 2007
USBC forming Lane Conditioner/Cleaner Task Force
October 2, 2007
A statistical approach to lane center certification
August 30, 2007
USBC research uncovers new facts about bowling ball movement
August 22, 2007
USBC modifies lane dressing inspection requirements
July 13, 2007
USBC adopts lane hardness specification
June 5, 2007
Bowling ball performance and resulting ball life
May 22, 2007
April 22, 2007
USBC leads the way in bowling technology
March 28, 2007
USBC chooses Ford engineer as technical advisor
February 28, 2007
USBC refocuses on System of Bowling research
June 23, 2006
USBC to revisit testing of bowling pins
January 27, 2006
USBC forms task force to address bowling ball issues
September 22, 2005
USBC changes core specification
February 24, 2005
USBC sets new new bowling ball specification
January 8, 2005
You want high tech? Look no further than the USBC International Training and Research Center—a crossroads between research and coaching.
These three links demonstrate how the Equipment and Specifications team are contributing to the ITRC:
The science of bowling is one which, like any science, has its share of technical jargon—terms like "Coefficient of Friction," "Intermediate Differential," or "Symmetrical Core." Below we provide a comprehensive glossary of terms that will make the more technical side of bowling more accessible to you.