A couple of Harvard students have enlisted the world’s most popular sport as a generator of portable power. SOCCKET ball, the brainchild of Jessica Matthews and Julia Silverman, is a toy that can produce renewable energy anywhere. The inventors stopped in at the US Embassy in Jordan to conduct educational programs for children and workshops for young entrepreneurs. They also took time out to play ball with staffers. Kick them for 30 minutes (the balls, not the embassy workers) and the internal generators will produce around three hours of light from companion LED lamps.
“We designed the SOCCKET for children and families who could use a product that addresses an issue in their lives in a positive way,” Jessica Matthews, CEO and co-founder of Uncharted Play, told Latitude News.
Enrolled in an engineering class for non-engineers, the duo was tasked with designing a multiplayer game that also addressed a world development issue. They popped a shake-to-charge flashlight inside a soccer ball, booted it around campus, and soon had a prototype energy source. SOCCKET is only about an ounce heavier than a standard soccer ball. Filled with specialized foam, it won’t deflate.
Children in developing countries without reliable power can play soccer, then afterwards use the light to read, do homework and illuminate their homes. The lamp is currently the only appliance it can charge, but the product website shows ambitions of increasing functionality, allowing the ball to also power cell phones, fire up hot plates, and run fans.
SOCCKET is one item in a growing group of eco-products that turns an everyday activity into an opportunity for clean energy generation. There’s something immediately appealing about turning play into power.
However, it’s not free from critics. There are more efficiently powered LED lamps available. Cranky Aaron Ausland, of the blog Staying for Tea, pointed out that the SOCCKET’s generative powers are roughly the equivalent of “four rechargeable AA batteries.”
Silverman responded on that blog, emphasizing that company is continuing product evaluation, keeping the focus on fun for children. She said the cap on the SOCCKET’s power-making ability was an intended design feature, so play for kids doesn’t become work for power.
A Kickstarter campaign exceeded founders’ expectations and the balls are in commercial production. Check out the company website (link here) for details on pre-ordering. Their funding partners sponsored an order which will be distributed to communities in need. Is there someone out there who would donate a few thousand to the refugee kids in Jordan’s overflowing camps?
The green dream is a future powered by low energy, high efficiency gizmos juiced with 100% renewable energy and zero emissions. SOCCKET ticks those boxes, and adds fun.
Images from Uncharted Play