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Bradley Hilltopics

Fall 2008 • Volume 14, Issue 4  

Sports Scene
Right up his alley | Ladas ’54 broadcasts for bowlers | Spare scholarship dollars | Herzog ’74 ready for season #33 | New coach throws out Cubs’ first pitch

 

right up his alley

By Nancy Ridgeway

Ask NEIL STREMMEL ’90 about bowling, and he’ll tell you, “It can be as simple as renting a pair of shoes and grabbing a ball off the rack or as complicated as determining the Coefficient of Restitution.”

Bowling is far more than a game for Stremmel, recently named vice president for the United States Bowling Congress. “People would be surprised at the technology in bowling,” says Stremmel, who grew up in a bowling center owned by his father, the late ROBERT STREMMEL ’54.

After graduating from Bradley with a degree in mechanical engineering, Stremmel worked in aerospace and nuclear power for 10 years before accepting the position of director of research at the U.S. Bowling Congress. “People would laugh or question that career change, but once we talked about my responsibilities, it quickly made a lot of sense.”

bowling glove technology
International bowling coach Kim Young, left, wears a grip sensor glove developed
by a team led by NEIL STREMMEL ’90, right. Photos courtesy of U.S. Bowling Congress.

Headquarters for the Bowling Congress, the national governing body and membership organization for the sport of bowling, recently moved from the Milwaukee area to Arlington, Texas. One of about 50 such organizations for both Olympic and non-Olympic sports, the Bowling Congress has 2.6 million members and includes anyone who bowls in a league. Explaining that the Bowling Congress oversees all league play, Stremmel says, “All equipment in any type of league or competition is standardized so you can compare scores in Peoria to those in San Diego.”

“We test samples of every bowling ball made — approximately 300 per year. We have specifications for bowling balls, bowling pins, lane surfaces, lane oil, scoring units, foul detectors, and more. From an engineering point of view, we look at principles like the Coefficient of Restitution (COR). This is a specification about how much energy can be transferred from the ball to the pin. We look at other engineering components like Coefficent of Friction (COF) and the Radius of Gyration (RG) of the ball and how they affect scoring,” says Stremmel, who averages over 220 in standard leagues.

Stremmel was the lead person for a team that has four patents in bowling engineering. The first patent involves the algebraic equation involved in the motion of the ball as it moves down the lane. “It looks at how the ball goes down the lane, hooks, and rolls into the pins. The skid phase is when the ball moves straight ahead. Then the ball begins to hook. The hooking motion follows a quadratic equation. The roll phase at the end is a straight line, as well. We came up with the equations for each of the three phases and a way to analyze those three phases. This is used to analyze equipment. We know where the ball goes and all the data points.”

bowling robot

Stremmel stands by Harry, the bowling robot. The robot is used for testing and research because it is more accurate and consistent than any human bowler.

He continues, “The other three patents are in biomechanics. They are more for coaching and helping bowlers. First, we patented a grip pressure system. It’s a glove with thin sensors on it that can be worn while bowling to determine if the bowler is squeezing the ball, how much, how hard the ball is thrown, etc. The next is a foot pressure system, which slips into the shoe and captures information on a computer. Bowlers can see the timing of their steps, how consistent they are from step to step, how much force they use to propel themselves forward, and how balanced they are with the slide foot. The last patent is a motion capture system.”

That system, Stremmel explains, involves a network of cameras, sensors, and computers that measures a bowler’s pressure points and movements. He says, “You can start to conclude what’s good, what’s bad, and what will hurt later in life if the person continues to bowl the same way.” A story about the system appeared in a recent issue of U.S. Bowler. View the article here.

An Olympic sport?

In his role as vice president, Stremmel leads the research department, the equipment specifications area, and the coaching development team. Explaining that bowling is a popular Pan Am sport, Stremmel is part of a group petitioning to make it an Olympic sport.

The sport is growing within the U.S., as well. Stremmel says, “High school bowling is the fastest growing sport in the country, and collegiate women’s bowling is now recognized by the NCAA.”

Stremmel has been featured in national media several times. He was on ESPN last fall, when the pro tour was in Milwaukee, and also was interviewed years ago by ESPN for a piece about the sport of bowling. He was on the cover of the Wall Street Journal with a story about bowling ball technology and has been interviewed on National Public Radio on several occasions. “There’s always an interesting story with what we’re doing in the research building.”

Of particular interest is the bowling robot, Harry. “He did the testing for our first patent. Harry can throw a ball at all different speeds and positions. We use Harry for research, because he’s more accurate and consistent than any human bowler, so we get good, consistent information from him — important to any engineer.”

Reflecting on his years at Bradley, Stremmel notes he met his wife KARI ZESCHKE STREMMEL ’93 while he was a student. Stremmel also was president of Theta Chi fraternity.

He concludes by citing an example of how he integrated his Bradley education into his career. Stremmel and his team recently made the lead presentation to the American Society of Quality and the American Statistical Society. The topic was, “The Factors That Contribute to Bowling Ball Motion.” He says, “It goes to show the scientific principles we use are the same as anyone else uses. We just apply it in a more exciting manner. It makes learning about statistics, physics, and chemistry more fun. The education I received at Bradley allows me to understand that, as well as learn more.”

Visit bowl.com to read more about the Bowling Congress.

 

Right up his alley | Ladas ’54 broadcasts for bowlers | Spare scholarship dollars | Herzog ’74 ready for season #33 | New coach throws out Cubs’ first pitch