Soccer ball brings energy to developing world

(CBS News) The sOccket looks like an ordinary soccer ball, but it’s much more than that. It’s a power source for small electronic devices — something the developing world desperately needs.

The innovative ball is the brainchild of Harvard graduates Julia C. Silverman and Jessica O. Matthews, who came up with the idea while taking an engineering class for non-engineers. The class’ intent was to use art in science to bring change.

Both Silverman and Matthews have backgrounds with developing countries and used the stories of those areas in generating their idea. “Everybody (in the areas we wanted to target) had this strong love of soccer,” Silverman said. “But almost nobody has consistent access to electricity.”

How does the device work?

It harnesses kinetic energy using a stripped-down gyroscope inside the ball that’s rolling as the ball is rolling. The gyroscope harnesses the kinetic energy generated during play and stores it in a battery that users can plug appliances into.

“We knew there was a beauty in play,” Matthews said, “(and) that that happiness was something that we should try to harness and amplify.”

Silverman, co-founder and chief social officer of Uncharted Play, and Matthews, co-founder and chief executive of Uncharted Play, are working on a new model, to be released in June. The current model can power an LED light for three hours on just 30 minutes of play time. It’s water-resistant and never deflates.The next model aims to power cell phones and other electrical devices.

The ball has the potential to reduce the reliance on dangerous kerosene lamps in developing countries.

Silverman explained, “A family, for kerosene, which is the alternative to electricity for many people around the world, they can spend 10 to 30 percent of their annual income just on kerosene, which is bad for your lungs and everything else.”

The balls haven’t been priced yet, but are expected to be in the price range of mid- to high-end soccer balls, Silverman said.

The balls are currently being used in Mexico, El Salvador, and in South Africa, and are heading to Haiti and The Gambia later this year.

For $60, you can buy a sOckket to donate, on the company’s website.

For more with the entrepreneurs and their effort, watch the video in the player above.

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