The power of a soccer ball

July 18, 2011

Anyone who watched the women’s World Cup final might have wondered if it’s possible to harness that pure human energy. Turns out, it is. There’s enough power in a soccer ball to light the night — or at least a part of it.

It’s done via sOccket, a soccer ball that kids kick around all day, where its movement generates energy. When the sun sets, plug an LED lamp into the ball and it turns into a light for reading or other purposes. Play with the sOccket for 15 minutes and use the light for up to three hours. Sustainable, non-polluting, safe.

SOccket was created to solve a pervasive problem — the lack of reliable electricity — with a pervasive game. More than one-fifth of the world’s population, about 1.4 billion people, lack electric power, but kids almost everywhere play soccer.

Conceived as a group project at Harvard University by Jessica Matthews and Julia Silverman when they were undergraduates, sOccket has been tested in South Africa, Nigeria, Spain and Haiti. Now, Matthews said in a telephone interview, it’s on track for mass production and distribution later this year.

Testing has led to significant improvements, Matthews said from London. “We’ve pretty much changed everything from the prototype … One thing that people can expect is definitely a redesign of the soccer ball, to think of our end-user, which is the resource-poor child.” That includes making the internal mechanism a lot sturdier. Early versions lasted a few months; the new ones to be unveiled in August or September should last at least a year, she said.

The latest version will also be able to power more than an LED lamp, but Matthews wouldn’t say exactly what appliances it might energize.

SOccket is a “movement” of an enterprise called Uncharted Play Incorporated, co-founded by Matthews and Silverman.

This movement isn’t ending with a soccer ball. Matthews said plans for next year include a sOccket basketball.

Photo credit: REUTERS/Thomas Bohlen (Japan’s Nahomi Kawasumi (C) is challenged by Amy Le Pielbet of the U.S. during Women’s World Cup final soccer match in Frankfurt July 17, 2011)


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