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Who ever said that play can’t change the world? The Soccket ball, developed by two Harvard alumns, is a regulation-size soccer ball containing an inductive coil mechanism that captures and stores a small electrical charge. With a tiny flip cap that reveals an 1/8″ input, after less than 30 minutes of play, the Soccket will power an LED light for 3 hours, charge a battery, or operate other small devices, including an iPhone or portable CD player.

Think powering a small LED isn’t a big deal? According to the World Bank’s 2009 report, 65% of people in Africa and 25% of Latin America still have NO access to electricity. And since soccer is one of the world’s most popular sports — particularly in African and Latin America — the Soccket ball could be a meaningful source of electricity, especially to kids who often find ways to play even in harsh environments. So far 2,500 Soccket balls have been distributed through pilot programs for kids ages 7-12 in Tlaquepaque, Mexico; and in Chicago and Newark here in the states.

The Soccket’s outer measurements are identical to a regulation ball, and, tech pack included, it weighs only two ounces more. Made with a foam core and spongy foam fabric wrapped in vinyl, it can keep rolling after a puncture, unlike conventional soccer balls. The lead engineer for the team reports that the Soccket’s bounce is a little less than standard, but they’re working to improve it to match what players are used to.

With all the talk of li-ion batteries in Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, it’s pretty cool to see some positive news about innovation in portable energy. The Soccket team has received funding from the Harvard Institute for Global Health, the
Clinton Global Initiative University, and its Kickstarter project online. According to yesterday’s Boston Globe,

Late last week, through a Kickstarter crowd-funding effort, [creators Jessica Matthews and Julia Silverman] were some $31,000 shy of their pledge goal of $75,000. If they can hit the number, they can increase production, spread Soccket to remote corners of the world, places such as Vietnam or Thailand or other parts of southeast Asia where connecting to an electrical source can mean maybe a five-hour journey on foot.

As Toolmongers, you probably have some creative ideas of your own about how a small, portable power source like this could be put to use. What would you do with it? (Remember, no breaking child labor laws.) Share your ideas in comments!

*Special thanks to the Republic of Everyone for the phased design photo, and to Inspiration Green for the close-up photo.

Soccket: The Power of Play [Web]
The Boston Globe: Harvard Women Building a Smarter Soccer Ball [Web]
Soccket’s Kickstarter page (the only place you can currently get a Soccket, for a $99 donation) [Web]

 

4 Responses to The Soccket Ball: Innovative Portable Energy

  1. Pete says:

    This thing looks like a great camping accessory. keep the kids busy while you setup the tents/rv/campfire. Then power the night-light for their tent.

  2. Jerry says:

    Have to agree with Pete. I might add that it could be the only way to recharge their smart phone or portable game. They’d kick like crazy then!

  3. me says:

    Couldn’t the same kinetic energy principal apply to transportation? For example, charging off the motion of bicycle wheels and/or pedals? Or, on cars, could you have the motion from the wheels and/or the shock absorbers provide energy? Lastly, I’ve always had an idea that maybe we could get energy from highways some how via the wind and/or road pressure created by vehicles driving by. Ever since I saw the experiment of energy created by buoy’s placed in the ocean attached to the ocean floor to tap kinetic energy that way from the tide, I thought there ought to be ways to harness energy from crowded freeways. Just a thought. Last note, you can also get energy from sound…same situation in Africa: experimental devices are placed on a window, the kinetic energy from wind and sound creates an electrical charge just like a dynamic microphone does. Perhaps several of these placed in noisy environments like big cities, freeways, or waterfalls could generate electricity.

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