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Jessica O. Matthews has a ball generating energy

Her company, Uncharted Play, produces the SOCCKET, a power-generating soccer ball that literally turns kids' play into usable electricity.

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    'Whether you’re born in New York or Namibia, everyone laughs. Everyone smiles. Everyone plays,' says Jessica O. Matthews, the founder of Uncharted Play. The company distributes the SOCCKET soccer ball, which generates and stores electricity while children play with it.
    Courtesy of Uncharted Play
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From time to time, parents might find themselves telling their children to put away a soccer ball and stop playing.

Now, thanks to an innovation from New York City-based Uncharted Play, those same parents might be encouraging some extra playtime.

Uncharted Play has created the SOCCKET, the power-generating soccer ball that literally turns play into energy.

"Uncharted Play was founded in May 2011 as a new kind of social enterprise grounded in play and the happiness of life, that would show the world how play could be a tangible tool for inspiring social invention," says Jessica O. Matthews, the organization's founder and CEO. "The company ethos is simple: Human beings are more similar than we think. Whether you’re born in New York or Namibia, everyone laughs. Everyone smiles. Everyone plays."

Much more than a toy, the SOCCKET provides a source of clean energy, a means for those who might not have access to energy to generate it through play.

According to Uncharted Play, "the SOCCKET harnesses kinetic energy from play and converts it into electrical energy that can be used to power small appliances." Thirty minutes of play translates into three hours of LED light that can be harnessed through an attachable, three-light LED lamp that comes with each SOCCKET.

The SOCCKET will soon be complemented by a couple of new additions. The SOCCKET  II will have enhanced durability, a new collection of colors, and a new LED lamp. There is also the PULSE, an energy-generating jump rope, which will  be available for purchase online later this year.

Uncharted Play works with nonprofit organizations around the world to harness the "power" of play to address global issues and inspire social invention. It plans on distributing some 50,000 SOCCKETS in 10 countries over the course of six months, beginning later this month.

The SOCCKET II retails for $99. Each purchase also gives one child access to the energy-generating products and social invention curriculum that Uncharted Play has put together.

The idea behind Uncharted Play came about in 2008, when Ms. Matthews and a fellow student at Harvard University paired for a class project. While they had no experience in engineering, they conceived of the SOCCKET.

Inspired to take their  project to the next level and explore its social benefits, Matthews continued to pursue the SOCCKET after graduation. She opened Uncharted Play in New York City's Soho neighborhood, where it remains today.

Not ready to rest on her laurels, Matthews has some large ambitions moving forward.

"We will continue to search for more ways to use play to combat social issues," she says. "Right now, we are focusing on the issue of energy .... But we could easily expand into other areas, including addressing the clean water problem found in many parts of the world."

She also speaks of the organization's "Think Out of Bounds" curriculum, and the possibilities for enhancements and expansions.

Matthews has found that many of the children "end up sending us their ideas for their inventions," she says. "In the near future, we would like to provide more of an incubator to help these young inventors realize their own ideas and see them through to fruition."

Matthews says Uncharted Play hopes to bring its products and curriculum to more than a quarter-million people around the world by next April.

When asked about what drives her work, her answer is simple.

​"I feel that as the world becomes ever more complex, no one person, company, or organization will be able to solve its problems," she says. "Rather, it will be the collective work of the masses that leads to significant change.

"At Uncharted Play, I am able to develop products and services that spark that collective effort – that inspire unlikely people to believe that they can have an impact, so we have as many people as possible actively working toward a better tomorrow."

• For more information about Uncharted Play, visit www.unchartedplay.com.

{Editor's note: The original headline of this blog post incorrectly stated Ms. Matthews' name. We regret the error.]

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