Sometimes the fix for a job search isn’t an interview, instead it’s innovation. Four college students from Harvard came up with a concept for a class project that is turning into a full time gig and literally helping make the world a brighter safer place at the same time.
Engineering classmates Jessica Lin, Jessica Matthews, Julia Silverman and Hemali Thakkar were inspired by floors that capture energy from dancers’ movements. They focused on creating a portable people powered energy device that could be easily distributed and used in developing countries. From that came the sOccket, a soccer ball that generates and captures electricity during play.
Co-founder, Jessica Lin tells of the simple brilliance of the group’s inspiration, “Soccer is something you will find in every African country. People play for hours a day, so we thought, ‘Why not try to get a little more out of that energy?’ and that’s where the idea ultimately came from.”
Soccer is played in almost every country and class level on the planet. Many charities see the importance of play in poverty stricken places and make it their mission to distribute sports equipment to these communities. SOccket takes it a step further and addresses additional needs in their souped up soccer ball.
Using the same technology as “shake to charge” flashlights the ball builds its charge by running a magnet through a coil as it’s kicked around. Then, its six-watt power output can support a variety of small appliances including things like lights, fans, mobile phones, water sterilizers and hotplates.
By creating and storing energy that can later be used to charge batteries and power LEDs these four students and their supporters are bringing light to some of the darkest places on earth. They are providing power to the powerless by illuminating homes with clean renewable energy.
Many families in impoverished countries don’t have a lot of options. They rely on harsh and dangerous sources like kerosene and wood to provide power in their homes. This leads to a myriad of health problems and affects children’s education.
Lin explains, "There were stories we would hear of children going out to the street and studying underneath street lamps, or literally coming to school with blackened noses because they'd been studying near kerosene lamps."
The sOccket team has been testing the prototype of their invention on location in Africa. Once they’re done working the bugs out the ball will be ready for sale in the states. Their business model for commercial release is the “buy one, give one” strategy.
As a parent I think it’s great to teach social/environmental responsibility and encourage physical activity. Once it’s out I’m going to buy one for each of my kids and tell them that they can only use the sOccket and not the outlet to charge all of their gaming devices. Win Win Win!