Student-created sOccket scores a Breakthrough Award

2 min read

The student-created sOccket was among the winners of Popular Mechanics sixth annual Breakthrough Awards, which recognizes the innovators and products poised to change the world in the fields of technology, medicine, aviation, environmental engineering, and more.

“From soccer balls that generate light to cell phones that diagnose medical conditions, our diverse, inspired winners are making the seemingly impossible a reality,” says James B. Meigs, editor-in-chief of Popular Mechanics. “The 2010 Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award honorees are the people and products leading the way into the future, and we’re thrilled to recognize their advances.”

Jessica Lin ’09, Jessica O. Matthews ’10, Julia Silverman ’10, and Hemali Thakkara ’11 created the eco-friendly ball when they all were undergraduates at Harvard College.

After just 15 minutes of play, their soccer ball can provide families in sub-Saharan Africa — where less than 25 percent of the population has access to reliable electricity — with 3 hours of LED light, a clean alternative to kerosene lamps.

Field-tested in South Africa during the World Cup, sOccket has an imbedded DC jack and weighs only 5 ounces more than a FIFA-regulated ball. A future model should hold enough juice to charge a cellphone.

The creation of the innovative ball, which uses an inductive coil mechanism to generate energy, was thanks in part to a novel Engineering Sciences course, ES 147, “Idea Translation.”

The course, taught by David Edwards, professor of the practice of biomedical engineering and a core member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, is affiliated with the Laboratory “The Lab” at Harvard.

A three-year experiment, The Lab is principally an exhibition and meeting space for student idea development within and between the arts and sciences, and serves as a forum for interfaculty and public creative expression and dialog.

The sOccket team and other honorees will be celebrated at a ceremony at Hearst Tower in New York City on the evening of October 5. The exclusive sponsors of this year’s event are Cub Cadet and DigiKey.