Soccer ball

Harvard women build smarter soccer ball

“We just don’t want people to think they have to play 16 hours of football for this to work. “

Soccket is the brainchild of two Harvard alumni in 2010, Jessica Matthews and Julia Silverman, neither of whom majored in engineering during their undergraduate studies. Matthews, from Poughkeepsie, NY, and Silverman, from Chicago, enrolled in an engineering course for non-engineers (Engineering Sciences 147) during their junior year and were tasked with designing a multiplayer game that would solve a problem. global development.

The project immediately led the two women to a hamster ball – the spongy, frothy, grapefruit-sized play toy of the planet’s pet rodents. Matthews and Silverman slipped a shaking flashlight to charge inside the balloon, started it around campus like a couple of Revolution All-Stars, and voila, they had a spring loaded to tip. prototype energy good for bringing small but nonetheless large units of electricity energy to some of the darkest and most remote corners of the world.

Pele may be football’s black pearl, but non-athlete Matthews and Silverman may one day be considered the Crimson Diamonds in the game.

“When you see kids playing with Soccket for the first time, it’s surreal,” said Angel, who grew up in Mexico, where, once outside Mexico City, access to electricity is often. intermittent or non-existent. “We took him to Tlaquepaque [about three hours east of Mexico City] for a pilot program, and the children [ages 7-12] adored.

“They were quick to engage. They know football, so there is that fun aspect to it from the start. And then they see how that feeds the light, and they’re like, “Oh, wow! ” ‘

One of the children, Angel recalls, first thought that Soccket might be an educational tool for teaching blind people to play soccer. Another kid, after finally realizing how the technology and the lithium-ion battery work, suggested that it could be applied to roller skates to generate a similar charge.

“It’s inspiring,” said Angel, “to see how people embark on innovation with such a creative mindset. “

The Soccket Ball has come a long way from its humble hamster roots, thanks to the handwork of Angel and the constant pushing of Matthews and Silverman to improve their product. The current iteration, tech pack included, weighs just 2 ounces more than a standard 15 ounce soccer ball.

The skin of the Sockett is vinyl, much like most soccer balls, but the interior is padded with two types of foam fabric. The spongy foam protects the tech pack and, unlike conventional air-filled balls, allows the game to continue rolling if the ball is punctured.

“In design, we try to be aware of a lot of things,” Angel said. “A conventional bullet, which has an air bladder, would likely be punctured and dumped in a landfill in two months or less. The Soccket, thanks to the foam core, lasts much longer. ”

The most significant difference between the Soccket ball and the traditional ball is the rebound. The density of the foam decreases the jump of the ball. Less boing, less bounce. But Angel and his two tech colleagues are working diligently to make him feel a little dizzy.

“We need to improve on that rebound,” reflected Angel, who discovered Soccket via YouTube while at BU, and says he’s become “obsessed” with joining the now-based company. south of Manhattan. “The rebound is a challenge, but I think we’ll get closer to it. “

Matthews and Silverman, now enrolled at Harvard Business School, have stepped up efforts in recent months to complete Soccket’s funding. At the end of last week, thanks to a Kickstarter crowdfunding effort, they were about $ 31,000 away from their pledge goal of $ 75,000. If they can reach the numbers, they can increase production, expand Soccket to remote corners of the world, places like Vietnam or Thailand or other parts of Southeast Asia to connect to a source. electric can mean maybe a five hour trip on foot.

The handcrafted balls are produced in Long Island, Bohemia, NY, and so far some 2,500 have been distributed in Mexico and here in the United States through pilot programs in Chicago and Newark.

They were also delivered for trials in Brazil, Nigeria and South Africa.

The surface of the ball includes a small plastic cap, about the size of a US quarter, which covers the electrical outlet for the connection of the LED lamp. The lamp cord has a small plug, the same size and shape as the plug that connects headphones to iPhones, portable CD players, etc.

“We didn’t specifically want it to look like a wall outlet,” Angel said. “We didn’t want people trying to plug in a blender or other appliances. “

The Soccket also has an adapter for charging an iPhone4. In theory, a 30-minute African bush pickup game could be the ticket to an internet connection via a smartphone. A connection to the Whiner Line or “Touch and Rich” in places no one would have imagined. Such miracles.

Ball and Lamp Kits are not yet available for purchase at retail outlets. Alison Dalton Smith, director of communications for Uncharted Play, maker of Soccket, said the ball should someday be available to the masses online or at a specialty store like Brookstone. It is currently available through a $ 99 pledge made through kickstarter.com

Not long ago, Angel took a trip to Brazil to help roll out a Soccket pilot program. One of the stops, as planned, found a group of children, many of whom were barefoot, eagerly waiting to play on a dirt pitch beaten by the sun.

“A field full of rocks, broken glass, not at all flat. . . conditions you can’t imagine, ” Angel said. “But children will always find a way to play, whatever the conditions. There is no stopping them. That’s the big thing. ”

Give a child a ball, he will play one day, maybe longer. Give a kid some power and a chance to dream, and there’s no telling how far this bullet will take them.

Kevin Paul Dupont’s ‘On Second Thought’ appears on page 2 of the Sunday Globe Sports section. He can be contacted at [email protected]. Follow him on twitter @GlobeKPD.

Correction: Due to a reporting error, Soccket was misspelled in an earlier version of this article.