Clutch Bowling: Local tech innovator’s program sparks international interest

January 2019 Posted in Other

Andrew Zwicker Brenna WiEgand

By Brenna Wiegand

Though he had a bowling scholarship, Andrew Zwicker pursued software engineering which led him right back to bowling. What he’s done since has changed his life and is putting a new spin on the sport worldwide.

Andrew’s parents Ryan and Tawnya Zwicker bought Silver Creek Lanes bowling alley in Silverton 12 years ago; Andrew has bowled since he was five. He’s coached Silverton High School’s team and Saturday morning junior league for several years.

Out of high school the 26-year-old took a job with NW Remarketing, a leading reseller of Information Technology
and equipment.

“They helped me go to school for software engineering,” Zwicker said. After a few years he wrote the software that runs their company.

“My job had turned into just making sure the system didn’t fail – and computers are pretty reliable nowadays,” he said. His bosses asked him what was next. The three formed Cerebral Clutch and started looking for software to write.

A year or two later Zwicker’s parents shared a video of someone using a projector to track a bowling ball down
the lane.

“I thought ‘Wow, if I could write software for any industry, it would be bowling,’” he said. “My partners gave me $500 for parts and we built a prototype on our conference table with a single projector and a webcam. Then they asked what I could do with $5,000.”

He took over a lane at his parents’ bowling center with encouraging results. After some market analysis he and his bosses-turned-business partners believed they had a winner and spent more than two years in development.

“We then presented it at Bowl Expo 2018 in Las Vegas and it went incredibly well,” Zwicker said. “Now we’ve gone from a 600-square-foot office to 12,000 square feet. They employ nine people and expect to be at 15 by next year.

They see it as a tool to develop league bowlers and bring more youth into the sport.

“They spend so much time on their cell phones; we thought we’d get their attention by making the bowling lane a screen,” he said. “It worked out especially well with high schoolers.”

For the past ten years National Bowling Association has worked to recruit young people through scholarships and other activities, resulting in an increase in collegiate bowling. Zwicker is happy to be part of the movement.

“Bowling is starting to have a positive outlook for the first time in 30 years,” Zwicker said. “A lot of bowling centers are actually taking out lanes to replace that real estate with mini golf or go karts or laser tag. We’d like to think we’re saving bowling centers from having to succumb to becoming arcade centers.”

Using laser tracking, projectors and a high-powered computer, the system zeros in on the ball’s progress down the lane and overlays images that interact with it. Balls bust through brick walls, throw flames or blow bubbles, journey into outer space, dodge robots… new ones always under way. The holidays spurred such ideas as tearing through a Thanksgiving table.

In lieu of bumpers for the younger set, they project the pins closer and, rather than get discouraged, the new bowlers don’t want to stop.

“We’re not a media company; we come from the side of bowler development,” Zwicker said. “Most of my staff have shot 300 games and competed in nationals.”

They’re partnering up with world champion bowler Jason Belmonte to install his Australian bowling center. Japan is interested; 14 lanes are on their way to Mexico and they’ve installed in a 40-lane center in Pennsylvania with an eight-lane party room.

More than 20 lanes are going in at amusement parks next month. Zwicker spent much of last year traversing
the country.

Silver Creek Lanes has all 12 lanes on line and, aside from a new customer in California, is the only place on the West Coast offering Clutch Bowling.

“It definitely gets people more on their feet and they bowl more games,” Zwicker said. “A lot of time people look at their phones or watch TV between shots; with our system you’ll see them talking together and being more of a group.

“Now that it’s taking off we’re really excited to see how it goes,” he said. “We’re here for the bowlers and the proprietors and hopefully our product is a good investment for them. We support the community around us and are talking to Career and Technical Education Center in Salem about internships.

“Young people nowadays, they play video games and they love programming and are super creative and so we’re trying to help create more jobs in the area,” he said.

As awareness brings more people to Silver Lanes from further afield; they’ve gone to online reservations to keep up,
Tawnya said.

“It’s been neat to get things booked out further, quicker this year,” she said. “I don’t know what’s more fun, watching
the kids or watching the parents watch their kids.

“When Andrew programs, it’s like watching him play a piano,” she said. “This has turned into something so much bigger than he ever thought and we’re so proud of him. And it all started here in Silverton.”

Bowlers can give Clutch Bowling a try at Silver Lanes Friday and Saturday nights starting at 6.

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