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Bowling Ball Return Wagon

After bowling, the bowling balls are often left behind at the return and needs to be put back in the shelves. The employees carry the bowling balls by hand which can be very repeating and exhausting. We designed a product where the front part can be separated and function as a wagon. The product helps the bowling alley employees with transporting many bowling balls at once. When the wagon is not used it is connected to the back part of the return, and does not take up a lot of extra space.

This project was part of a course project that spanned over two courses; Product requirements engineering and User oriented design. The Products requirements engineering course was about doing user research and finding their needs. The User oriented design course and was about designing a product based on the findings from the previous course. Before the project started, we had no idea what kind of problem, or product we would end up with.

Type of project
Course project


Sep 2020 – Jan 2021


Ebba Lindberg

My Contribution

Interviews, KJ-analysis, design, CAID, renderings


Autodesk Alias, Illustrator

User research

Gathering data

We did in-depth interviews with employees at five different bowling alleys located in Gothenburg. It was important to see if the information we got was limited to a certain bowling alley or a common pattern for multiple bowling alleys. We interviewed both young employees, and seniors who had been in the industry for decades being ex-professional bowlers. 

We also did observation of the bowling 
alley and took notice of what happened, how things worked and looked like. After transcribing the interviews we took out meaningful quotations and did KJ Analysis to find a common ground. We concluded the following problem description.

Problem description

In bowling alleys there are bowling ball returns where balls come back after being thrown away. A big problem is that customers often leave balls in the return and forget to put them back in the shelf. The employees have to do it for them instead.


The employees carry the bowling balls by hand which means they can only carry two at a time. 


Almost every bowling alley lacks proper helping equipment for transporting big amounts of balls.


 There are existing wagons but they are rarely used since they do not have a proper area to be stored in. A bowling alley can have around 200 balls, weighing up to 7 kg. The repeated carrying can cause damage to the employees over time.

Man carrying bowling balls from the return to the shelf.

Developing the product

Product Requirements

We listed some product requirements based on the problem description. The most important ones were:


  • The product should be able to transport at least 12 bowling balls. (Equal to the number of bowling balls that a normal return can hold).
  • The product should improve ergonomics for employees when transporting bowling balls.
  • The product should be more efficient at transporting bowling balls compared to carrying by hand.
  • The product should be space efficient.


A persona and scenario was created to portray a typical employee. It helped us emphatize with the user and define a clear target group. When sketching the solutions we began with broad, open methods such as brainstorming and brainwriting to create as many solutions as possible. We did benchmarking to analyze how already existing products solved the problem. By weighing pros and cons we continued with the three strongest concepts.

Persona of Lars Bengtsson, an old man who owns a bowling alley which he took over from his father. He has a strong service mind and tend to forget his age and physical health. Bowling balls in the wrong place is an underlying pet peeve for him.
Early sketches of a bowling ball wagon for transporting balls.

Concepts and feedback

Concept 1

A traditional wagon for transporting bowling balls, similar to the ones that already exist on the market. Interviews told us that these wagons are not used very often because they take up a lot of space and it takes time to pick them up from the place where they are stored. Therefore we did not want to reinvent the wheel.

Early sketch of an expanded return with more storage for bowling balls on it.

Concept 2

Expansion of the Bowling Ball Return increases storage for more bowling balls. With this concept we tackled the problem from another angle by eliminating the transport distance. For this concept the employees were skeptical if there would be enough space to completely replace the shelves. Another drawback is that players might feel limited to only taking bowling balls from their own return. It might be awkward to take balls from another return while other groups of people are playing.

Sketch of early concept of detachable bowling ball return which can be used as a wagon.

Concept 3

Separable Bowling Ball Return that can be used as a wagon. It is a combination of the previous concepts. It was flexible like the first concept but solved the problem of being stored somewhere. It was also similar to the second concept where the return itself serves an additional purpose. However, this was the most complicated concept. We chose this concept because we thought it was interesting, and we wanted to take on the challenge.

The Final Product

It is a bowling ball return combined with a wagon. It consists of two parts where the front part can be released and used as a wagon. This solution reduces lifts of balls to load the wagon since already loaded and ready to go. An additional level was implemented to increase its capacity, being able to hold 24 bowling balls. This enables the user to pick up extra bowling balls on the way to the shelf. 


The product helps the bowling alley employees with transporting many bowling balls at once. When the wagon is not used it is stored by being connected to the back part of the return. Therefore, it does not take up any extra space.


The product is equipped with many smart features that makes it easy to use. Some of them are:


  • The handle can be rotated depending on the situation, if it functions as a return or as a wagon.
  • It has multiple locks that prevents the balls from rolling around and falling down.
  • Two of the wagon’s wheels can be locked at once by pressing a pedal foot lock.
  • Lockable latches on the sides holds the product in place.
  • For security reasons, bowling balls will only return if the wagon is properly connected.
Rendering of bowling ball return wagon.

A flyer was created for the final presentation in the course. It is shown below in swedish.

Reflection and insights

In the beginning of the project we did not limit the scope enough. We triend to solve every problem we found in the first course. This led to many conflicting problems and the solutions being mediocre. As soon as we narrowed down our problem statement everything became easier. 


It was difficult to find problems since many users did not express them explicitly. Some people had a “things have always been that way”-mentality It was important to pay attention and ask relevant follow up questions.

We came up with a final product, carefully designed to solve the found problems in theory. However, the final product was still very conceptual. Its technical functionality was not defined in detail. 

If we would have continued, we would have tested with users to see if there is a difference in time and ergonomics, compared to carrying by hand. However, we thought that our solution was both creative and somewhat out of the box. It was an inspiring project that made us challenge conventional ways of problem solving.