Obama kicks, juggles ‘soccket ball’ for African power

DAR ES SALAAM, TANZANIA -- President Obama, an avid hoops player, hit the pitch Tuesday -- the soccer pitch, that is.

It was actually during a tour at a power plant here that Obama and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete got a look at the "soccket ball" -- a soccer ball that has an electric generator placed inside of it. Invented by two Harvard University graduates, the balls can generate electrical power for lights and cell phones after they are played with for a while.

Obama took the ball and tossed it in the air. Then he let it drop and kicked it back up to himself. Finally, to the delight of the photographers at the scene, he threw it in the air and headed it to himself.

He later handed the ball to Kikwete, who didn't try to duplicate the feat. Obama asked aides how much power the balls generate and how much they cost. Finally he walked toward reporters, including members of the Tanzanian press, and explained how the device works.

"There is a mechanism inside so that the kinetic energy when you kick the ball creates a battery," the president explained. "So now you can power this."

He and an aide attached one end of a cable to the ball and the other end to a cell phone.

"You can play with this for two hours and now you've got half an hour's worth of, an hour's worth..." Obama began.

The woman interjected: "thirty minutes of play, several hours of battery."

They held up the cell phone. Obama said his administration is distributing the balls across Africa as part of an initiative aimed at doubling access to electrical power on the continent.

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David Nakamura · July 2, 2013