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Students from Peso da Régua win MEDEA with study about the effects of electromagnetic fields on health

 

A team of five students from Escola Secundária Dr. João de Araújo Correia, in Peso da Régua, district of Vila Real, won the 13th edition of MEDEA, an initiative of the Portuguese Physics Society (SPF- Sociedade Portuguesa de Física) and REN - Redes Energéticas Nacionais, aimed at promoting knowledge of physics and the study of electromagnetic fields among Portuguese youth and society in general.

Electroteam's victory was announced today, during the 23rd National Conference of Physics, taking place at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Porto. The event also included an honourable mention for the Xosmics team, from the Escola Secundária de Paços de Ferreira, district of Porto.

Electroteam's work, based on measurements made near a Very High Voltage pole and using data from the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection, found that there are no harmful effects on public health in the vicinity of infrastructure supporting power transmission networks. Moreover, the study also specifies that even with long exposure to these towers, there is no danger to human health, since these lines are sufficiently far from the ground and houses.

The team was composed of João Pedro Almeida, Leandro Souto, Miguel Fonseca, Bruno Pereira, and João Morais, students of the 12th grade of Escola Secundária Dr. João Araújo Correia, from Peso da Régua. In their work, with the coordination of teachers Paulo Almeida and Ana Silveira, the team also measured the emissions of domestic appliances that are around us every day, such as refrigerators, heaters or dryers. They were, however, surprised with the measurement obtained near the microwave oven, since this was the highest recorded value among those measured, including the ones under an energy transport tower.

For Paulo Almeida, naturally pleased by the award received by his students, "it is projects like MEDEA that the 21st century school needs to develop a few theoretical and practical skills". For the teacher of the winning project, "Physics should be taught so students comprehend natural phenomena and technological mechanisms in order to understand the basis of scientific knowledge and its implications in society, the environment, and technologies. This will be a contribution for the student/individual to make free and informed decisions in the future".

Xosmics took measurements of the entire electricity distribution process, from the generation site (taking advantage of the proximity of the Torrão hydroelectric power station), to the delivery point, following REN's power transmission lines. Based on the results obtained and on their analysis, the team showed the safety of the infrastructures of the electricity generation and transmission network, demystifying preconceived ideas about the risks associated with exposure to magnetic fields. The team from Escola Secundária de Paços de Ferreira is composed of Ana Castro, Beatriz Silva, Fernanda Coelho, Filipe Sousa, and Inês Rocha, with the mentoring of Physics teacher Rosa Neto.

According to Rosa Neto, Paços de Ferreira team's teacher, "taking part in MEDEA was very important for all of us, as it enabled us to establish a link between the knowledge acquired in a school context and its application in the world in which we live, through the implementation of a real project. This way, we were able to create scientifically credible information about the possible effects of electromagnetic fields on human health, demystifying preconceived ideas about their risks".

José António Paixão, from SPF, was pleased by this edition, stating that "once again, we had good participation from schools in this project, which makes us very happy. For all participants in MEDEA, this was certainly an enriching experience. The opportunity to measure electromagnetic fields with equipment that usually does not exist in schools, and to combine theoretical knowledge with practice by investigating a problem relevant to society makes this project an asset in the teaching of Physics, and we are therefore very grateful to REN for this partnership".

The 14th edition of MEDEA will be open for applications on 18 October. The teams can sign up at http://medea.spf.pt/inscricao/.
 

About MEDEA:

Set up in 2008, MEDEA is a project of the Portuguese Physics Society and REN - Redes Energéticas Nacionais, aimed at students in the 10th to 12th years of secondary and vocational education. It enables practical application of the training provided in the educational institutions, by combining scientific knowledge with the students' everyday lives via experiments carried out by the students themselves, inside and outside the classrooms.

The participants prepare a science project based on measurements of electrical and magnetic fields of very low frequency - 0-300 Hz - in the environment, specifically at their school, at home, and in the vicinity of electric power transmission lines, and they search for scientifically credible information concerning possible effects of these fields on human health. Participating schools receive a device to measure electric and magnetic fields that the students use during the project. Each team then creates a website dedicated exclusively to MEDEA, where the team presents all obtained results, performed searches, as well as other information relevant to the project. The teams with the best projects will be awarded.