Entrepreneur Creates Soccer Balls That Generate Energy As You Play

Billions of people around the world live without reliable energy. Harvard graduate Jessica Matthews has found an off-grid energy solution that is not only reliable, but fun for children.


May 24 2019, Updated 2:33 a.m. ET

Reliable electricity is still a luxury in many developing countries. Over a billion people around the world do not have access to stable energy sources. Many of those who do not have energy rely on power sources like diesel generators or kerosene lamps which often pollute the air and cause health problems. Tech entrepreneur Jessica O. Matthews decided to create an off-grid solution, so she invented a technology that harnesses kinetic energy and produces clean power. 

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During a trip to Nigeria to attend her aunt’s wedding, the power went out at the event and back up generators were used. Due to faulty infrastructure, her family and the people in that area were accustomed to losing power several times a day. Matthews realized that the toxic fumes the generators emitted were a dangerous part of life for many people living in areas with spotty energy systems.  

This experience with unstable energy stuck with Matthews, and she found a solution while attending Harvard. It was there that she invented the Soccket, a soccer ball which can harness energy and power a lamp after about one hour of play. Through this idea, Matthews found a fun way to create motion which would offer an off the grid power source. After she graduated Harvard, Matthews focused on harnessing clean power through kinetic energy based products and founded her company Uncharted Play in New York City. 

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Matthews continued to work on developing her technology for practical uses. For example, she realized that girls in certain communities around the world were not always allowed to play soccer. In an effort to solve this issue, Matthews created the Pulse, a jump rope that could be used indoors as well as outdoors. Similar to the Soccket, this portable product uses movement to charge the battery and produce light.  Matthews hopes to "democratize energy access worldwide” with her unique technology called motion-based, off-grid renewable energy (MORE). With an eye to the future, her Harlem based company is working on incorporating the technology into meaningful existing products that can harness kinetic energy like baby strollers and floor panels.  

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Since starting on this path, Matthews’s efforts have made an indisputable impact. The Harvard graduate has paved the way for women in tech and was able to raise a $7 million Series A round - the largest amount ever raised by a female minority. As a CEO, she earned recognition as Fortune’s Most Promising Women Entrepreneurs, Forbes 30 under 30 list, Inc Magazine 30 under 30, and Harvard University Scientist of the Year. Her company also holds about 15 patents for her technology.  

Even Former United States President Barack Obama invited her to the White House and applauded her work. Former President Bill Clinton also acknowledged her efforts to spread awareness about global energy concerns while promoting physical activity. With a simple dream to bring clean energy to people everywhere, Jessica Matthews is making real change not just for people who need energy, but also for female inventors and entrepreneurs everywhere. 

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