Power Play

Soccer is, easily, the world’s most popular sport. It transcends continents, finding avid fans and players alike on all inhabited continents. Its premeire event, the World Cup, has transversed the globe, with games held on five continents — South America, Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America — since 1978. With few requirements — a ball, a field, some way to mark the goal boundaries (perhaps a few rocks?), and a bunch of friends — one can start a soccer match almost anywhere.

For Africa, a team of inventors is hoping that soccer will also lead to a reduction of kerosene use, and, therefore, improve health, economy, and the environment in the area. Their invention? The sOckket, pictured above.

The sOccket is a soccer ball which stores up kinetic energy created during game play. According to the New York Times, an early prototype worked in a manner similar to a shake-to-operate flashlight, using an induction coil to which pushes a magnet through the metal coil to generate and store electricity. After the game ends, the ball’s owner can plug small electrical devices such as an LED light into the ball itself, as suggested by the official sOccket website. A thirty minute game using the water resistant ball can generate enough electricity to use such a light for three hours.

According to the sOccket’s creators, the gain from three hours of LED light is significant because the currently-used alternative — kerosene lamps — are incredibly harmful. The creators assert that a day’s use of a kerosene lamp causes as much harm as smoking 40 cigarettes that day, and that kerosene lamps, diesel generators, and wood burning stoves — the reliance on all of which can be lessened by the sOccket — cause 1.6 million deaths annually. The balls are expensive at $60 apiece (including the lamp and shipping), but no one expects an impoverished African family to fork over that money. Right now, benefactors can donate a ball at that price, but the long-term plan is to implement a “buy one, give one” model, where everyday people can buy a sOccket ball kit for themselves and, in the process, fund one for an African family in need.

Bonus fact: Mix bleach in a water bottle and insert the bottle into a hole in the roof, part in the home, part outside. What does that give you? A solar powered light bulb, as described by Fast Company (with video). The way it works? Sunlight which hits the bottle is diffused by the water, spreading the light throughout the home. (The bleach keeps the water free from algae.) It’s cheap, gives the equivalent output of a 60 watt light bulb, and lasts for years. It does not work at night, of course, but do not undervalue its use during the day: in places where indoor lighting is lacking otherwise, these makeshift bulbs make homes safer and more enjoyable.

From the ArchivesLet There Be Light: A town in Italy which bent light to meet its unique needs.

Related: “Soda Bottle Science: 25 Easy, Hands-on Activities That Teach Key Concepts in Physical, Earth, and Life Sciences-and Meet the Science Standards” by Steve Tomecek. Five stars on two reviews.

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