iLocal News Archives

Kick, jump and play your way to renewable energy with these empowering products STEPHANIE WALDEN From Mashable

Soccer, or football as it’s known in most countries and cultures, is the unequivocally most popular sport in the world. Globally, around 270 million people play the game.

Here’s another global trend that’s considerably more grim: Nearly 1.2 billion people — almost one-fifth of humanity — lack access to reliable electricity.

While these two statistics may seem unrelated, they were both trends that Jessica O. Matthews noticed while traveling throughout Nigeria, visiting family and observing the local culture.

“[In Nigeria], you’ll often lose power several times a day, regardless of socioeconomic status. It’s a structural issue,” says Matthews, explaining that the outages affect everything from education to poverty levels to healthcare. “Everything is tied to, ‘Do you have light? Do you have power?'” “Everything is tied to, ‘Do you have light? Do you have power?'”

Even more disturbing to Matthews than the lack of consistent electricity was the seemingly resigned nature of her friends, family and neighbors: It seemed as if they’d given up hope that there could be a literal light at the end of the tunnel. “It was as if they no longer felt that this was a world where this problem could be fixed,” she recalls. The only widely used energy options available in the event of a power outage were kerosene or generators, both of which harm the environment and can pose serious health threats.

2015-09-08-65-SOCCKET1.ea4ffSo she decided to do something. What started as a class project while Matthews was attending Harvard University as an undergraduate student in 2008 turned into a full-fledged social enterprise company: Uncharted Play.

The company makes “play” products — at the moment, soccer balls and jump ropes — that collect kinetic energy and come equipped with an outlet in which electronics can be directly plugged. In turn, the entire process of powering through play educates consumers about how kinetic energy may provide a viable solution to the world’s energy crisis.

Harnessing the power of play
Harnessing energy from daily routines and hobbies and turning it into electricity that can power a home halfway around the world may seem like a concept out of a science fiction novel. But that’s exactly what Uncharted Play aims to do.

The two products currently on the market include the SOCCKET and the PULSE, an energy-harnessing soccer ball and jump rope. More products are in the works, and improvements and modifications of the existing ones, including updated colors and more, will arrive later this year.

The products work through a hybrid system that harnesses four different types of energy: rotational, motor-based energy, which relies on spinning, turning or rotating motion; vibrational energy; inductive coils that incorporate conductive, magnetic materials in such a way that creates electricity; and thermoelectric energy created by rubbing, heat-producing movements. The soccer ball, for example, primarily relies on rotational energy — when the ball spins, a mechanism within the device harnesses the rotational energy, which is then stored in the ball’s rechargeable lithium-ion battery.

Both products contain embedded outlets, so once enough energy has been collected through, say, a half-hour soccer scrimmage or jump rope session, users can plug their electronics directly into the soccer ball. Minutes of play translate into hours of electricity.

The M.O.R.E. movement
The type of energy that these products produce is trademarked by Uncharted Play as M.O.R.E.: motion-based, off-grid renewable energy.

“There are many different companies doing things with renewable energy in different ways: The classic solar or hydro companies,” says Matthews. “But one thing that we do uniquely well — and I don’t think there’s anyone else doing this — is we start with the question, ‘What does it take to disrupt the way we consume energy forever?” we start with the question, ‘What does it take to disrupt the way we consume energy forever?”

When Matthews sat down to answer that question, she realized that the technology she was envisioning wasn’t just a source of renewable energy: It was also a powerful educational tool.

“It’s really about creating a company and a system with a high IQ and a high EQ — a company that understands the emotional, human nature in which we interact with our environment and with which we actually use power in tangible and intangible ways,” Matthews told Mashable in a phone interview.

By tapping into people’s deep-seated love for soccer, a beloved cultural custom and tradition, and developing a way in which they can easily understand how renewable energy is created simply by playing the game, Matthews hopes to spark a movement that empowers both literally and figuratively. “[The soccer field is] where all the creative confidence, all the excitement and fervor, all the belief in the impossible — or the so-called impossible — comes out. On the field, you can’t tell someone that they can’t be the next Messi or the next Ronaldo,” she says.

The SOCCKET helps those who play with it visualize and fully understand how their movements and action can be used to harness power and kinetic energy. Matthews believes this to be an effective educational tool — more so than many of the renewable energy products on the market today, which tend to be more passive in nature. And since the Uncharted Play products build upon consumers’ existing behaviors as opposed to asking them to introduce a new habit into their routine, it has the potential to make a large-scale impact.

It’s worth mentioning that Matthews doesn’t believe M.O.R.E. is the end-all, be-all solution for the world’s energy problems. “I don’t think that any one way of harnessing energy will work on its own to solve the world energy crisis,” she admits. “I don’t think it’s just going to be wind or solar, or even just motion. But what [Uncharted Play] specializes in is that the best way to power a world in motion is with motion. For that concept to resonate, people need to see it as more than a science project. It needs to be real to them.”

Playing and thinking out of bounds
With every purchase of a SOCCKET or PULSE product, Uncharted Play provides a play system to a child in Nigeria, Mexico, Costa Rica or El Salvador. Soon, this “one-for-one” business model — part of the Impact Line of products — will launch as a “one-for-ten” model, in which each purchase will provide play systems for ten children, or an entire classroom. Each play product comes equipped with a lantern that can be plugged directly into the ball or jump rope, meaning that playtime translates to hours of light for kids and families in need.

Additionally, Uncharted Play is involved with a STEM curriculum, Think Out of Bounds. The five-part course, led by trained teachers, helps educate students about renewable energy and inspires invention through use and demonstrations of the company’s products.

To date, more than 50,000 SOCCKET and PULSE products have sold, primarily in Latin America and Africa. Matthews now hopes to turn consumer attention to the U.S. market, and to millennials and parents who want to teach their kids not only about renewable, sustainable energy, but also about global issues — and, additionally, revive the back-to-basics tradition of kicking around a ball outside instead of sitting on a couch immersed in a video game or screen.

“If you want to get people to recycle, make it make sense to recycle and people will do it,” says Matthews, who uses this mindset when it comes to developing products for Uncharted Play. “If we design products and systems that make it easier for people to do good, people will do good. By designing a product that people already want to use because it’s a play product, it makes it easier for people to engage with sustainable energy.”

New releases, products and initiatives are coming soon; learn more about Uncharted Play’s impact and mission here.


For more on this story go to:


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *