Harry, the robotic bowling ball thrower

It's Saturday and you might plan to go play bowling this evening. But do you know that the design of bowling balls influences scores? This is why the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) has started a two-year study of bowling ball motion. USBC engineers have used a seven-foot tall robotic ball thrower nicknamed 'Harry' to test about 60 particle and reactive resin bowling balls in more than 150 tests. They've also used the 'Super C.A.T.S.' (Computer Aided Tracking System) to record the velocity of the bowling balls as they were rolled down the lane. The Super C.A.T.S. system is made up of 23 small electronic sensors installed on the lanes. USBC engineers will give their conclusions about the balls next month. But read more...

It's Saturday and you might plan to go play bowling this evening. But do you know that the design of bowling balls influences scores? This is why the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) has started a two-year study of bowling ball motion. USBC engineers have used a seven-foot tall robotic ball thrower nicknamed 'Harry' to test about 60 particle and reactive resin bowling balls in more than 150 tests. They've also used the 'Super C.A.T.S.' (Computer Aided Tracking System) to record the velocity of the bowling balls as they were rolled down the lane. The Super C.A.T.S. system is made up of 23 small electronic sensors installed on the lanes. USBC engineers will give their conclusions about the balls next month.

Harry, the robotic bowling ball thrower

Here is a picture of Harry holding a ball before throwing it. "Named in honor of former USBC testing facility employee Harry Lawrence, [Harry] is a robotic bowling ball thrower who is part of the equipment testing and research effort at the USBC test facility in Greendale, Wisconsin. (Credit: USBC/Control Design)

How to control Harry, the robotic bowling ball thrower

And here is how you control how he's throwing balls. (Credit: USBC/Control Design) Both of these pictures have been extracted from a short movie available from Control Design (2 minutes and 54 seconds).

Harry "(named in honor of former testing facility employee Harry Lawrence) is an approximately seven-foot tall robotic bowling ball thrower who is an integral part of the equipment testing and research effort at the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) Specifications and Certification test facility in Greendale, Wisconsin."

So how does Harry picks the ball? "Harry has two 'hands,' a device with two clamps that grabs bowling balls. A piston and cylinder assembly makes the machine's hand open and close to pick up and release a ball. Springs and gravity provide forward momentum to propel a ball down the lane."

And why doesn't USBC just use human bowlers? "Because Harry can deliver bowling balls with much more precision, accuracy and consistency than humans. 'Harry can consistently duplicate shot after shot at ball speeds anywhere from 14-22 miles per hour and rev rates anywhere from 0-600 rpm,' said USBC Research Engineer Paul Ridenour.

For more information, you can read several documents available from USBC.

Enjoy a good game this evening...

Sources: Patrick Brettingen, USBC Communications, January 24, 2008; and various websites

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