Julia Silverman ’06 introduced Groton School to the Soccket—a soccer ball that generates electricity—during an all-School lecture last night.
Kicking the Soccket for 30 minutes generates three hours of electricity. To residents of remote villages, that can mean studying by a light, listening to music, running a water purifier or small refrigerator, charging a phone, or using other small electronic devices. The need is extreme: one in five people worldwide, according to Silverman, live without electricity.
While conducting research in Tanzania as an undergraduate, Silverman noticed that soccer was a fervent passion, and that energy needs were neglected. Those two observations, seemingly unrelated, would become inextricably entwined.
In the Campbell Performing Arts Center, Silverman projected a photo of tangled wires protruding from a pole as she discussed energy in the developing world. “It’s unavailable, it’s unreliable, and it’s unsafe,” she said. Those who dare to tap into that maze of wires risk electrocution. Those who don’t may face other energy-related risks: reading by a kerosene lamp for one night, she explained, causes the lung damage of 40 cigarettes.
The Soccket, originally developed by Silverman and three partners, might not exist if their group midterm project at Harvard hadn’t received a failing grade. The students, doubled with determination, took to heart the professor’s criticism that they had not thought sufficiently about people’s existing behaviors. Almost everywhere in the world, kicking a ball—or something resembling a ball—was an existing behavior, they realized, a behavior that could be tapped.