Power-Generating Soccer Ball Gets Big Kick From Obama

Kick a ball, power a light, empower a people—welcome back to the wonderful world of sOccket.

In Tanzania, President Obama juggles sOccket, an energy-capturing soccer ball. (Photo: Pete Souza/White House)

Jul 2, 2013· 1 MIN READ
Salvatore Cardoni holds a political science degree from the George Washington University. He's written about all things environment since 2007.

The interweb was positively giddy today with a video and pics of President Obama in Tanzania kicking and juggling sOccket, a soccer ball that generates and captures kinetic energy during play and stores the juice for later use as a power source.

To the President, the travelling White House press corps, and all you newly energized sOccket fans, I’d not-so humbly say: Get in line, dudes.

We here at TakePart have been ginormous fans and champions of the energy-producing orb for the better part of the last three years.

Our love affair began in 2010, on the eve of the South Africa World Cup, with an exclusive feature about a soccer ball that could light up the developing world. It blossomed later that fall, when we partnered with American Express to produce this short film. Later, in 2011, we caught up with one of the ball’s cofounders, Jessica Matthews, for a follow-up story on the progress of sOccket 2.0.

The genius of sOccket is that a kid in a developing nation can play a quick game of soccer after school, leave the pitch, take the ball home, plug a basic lamp into a built-in AC jack, and then have enough light to do his or her homework. (I know, I know: so elegant, so simple.)

This play-to-(home)work notion is vital for sub-Saharan Africans, 95 percent of whom live without access to electricity.

“For us, it’s more about trying to give people who really need this ball—people who don’t have access to reliable power—hope,” said Matthews, in 2011. She and Julie Silverman co-invented the ball in 2008 for a class at Harvard University. “Changing the way they view the world, making them believe in the magic of what’s possible. It’s really cool,” continued Matthews.

The ball’s internal mechanics have continued to evolve over the years, and the current iteration is capable of generating several hours of cell phone or flashlight usage after only 30 minutes of play.

In Tanzania, Obama told reporters that his administration is distributing the balls across Africa as part of an initiative aimed at doubling access to electrical power on the continent.

Click here to pre-order the next version of the ball that, quite literally, could energize an entire continent.