Kick a Soccket ball, power a lamp

It looks like a usual soccer ball. It plays like one, and weighs barely more.

Yet a simple mechanism hidden inside makes the Soccket a little different from the regular football: When you play with it, a pendulum stores energy from the motion, and converts it into electricity that can power a lamp plugged into it. A 30-minute-long match will give you three hours of light at the end of the game.

The student project at Harvard College has even caught the notice of Microsoft founder Bill Gates and former US president Bill Clinton.

The energy-harnessing ball is the brainchild of Harvard students Jessica Matthews and Julia Silverman, who developed it during their junior year when they enrolled in an engineering class for non-engineers.

In 2011, they set up Uncharted Play to produce and distribute their creation, with the aim of bringing light to communities without electricity around the world.

Its brilliance was evident. When Uncharted Play launched a crowd-funding campaign in February hoping to raise US$75,000, it got US$10,000 on the very first day - US$92,300 within one month. More than 1,000 people supported the project.

"It is something simple that resonates in people's lives," said Ms Matthews. "You're making a difference."

The balls have since been distributed in South Africa, Mexico, El Salvador and Brazil, and Uncharted Play is also in talks with the Nigerian and Bolivian governments.

Ms Melissa Seligmann, vice-president of business development at Uncharted Play, remembers children's reactions playing with the Soccket in Soweto on the outskirts of Johannesburg. "There was a true excitement among them when they saw the product. They started telling us it could help their parents with the energy bill."