23 July 2020

Lisbon’s José Gomes Ferreira High School wins MEDEA for study on the health impacts of electromagnetic fields

A team of students from the José Gomes Ferreira High School, in Lisbon, was the big winner of the eleventh edition of MEDEA, an initiative of the Portuguese Physics Society (SPF) and of REN - Redes Energéticas Nacionais, whose purpose is to promote knowledge on physics and the study of electromagnetic fields among Portuguese youth and society at large. Three special mentions were also awarded to teams from schools in Almada, Lisbon and Vila Nova de Famalicão.

The 'Rebobina' team, comprised of 12th-grade physics students Adolfo Morgado, Vasco Couto, Gonçalo Silva and Lourenço Barreto from the José Gomes Ferreira High School, coordinated by teacher Luis Afonso, submitted a project that identified and measured low-frequency electromagnetic fields surrounding us, including high-voltage cables, concluding that they comply with recommendations by the World Health Organization.

The winners were announced in a videoconference ceremony attended by representatives from REN, SPF and the winning teams. The awards will be handed over in person on 5 September 2020, during the closing ceremony of FÍSICA 2020 - 22nd National Physics Conference and 30th Iberian Meeting for Physics Instruction, held at the Institute of Education of the University of Lisbon.

Due to the high quality of the projects submitted, MEDEA also gave out three special mentions to schools from Almada, Lisbon and Vila Nova de Famalicão. The 'Argonautas' from the Camilo Castelo Branco High School in Vila Nova de Famalicão received one. The team comprised of Francisco Miguel Alves da Costa, Gonçalo da Silva Pereira Teixeira, José Afonso Barbosa Salgado, Tiago Miguel Mesquita Figueiredo and Tomás Santos Pereira and coordinated by teacher Teresa Martins proved that the farther we are from the devices surrounding us each day, the lower the intensity of their magnetic and electric fields. All of the values recorded were within the limits recommended by competent authorities.

Another special mention went to the group 'Romeu e Julietas' from the Romeu Correia High School in Feijó, Almada. This team, comprised of Maria Madalena Montez, Matilde Borralho, Leonor Teixeira, Bárbara Capelo and Rita Lopes and coordinated by teacher José Fanica chose to conduct a survey on people's opinion on the magnetic fields around us, cross-checking this data against measurements taken, all of which were below the recommended reference values.

The third special mention went to 'The Magnetos' from Lisbon's Rainha Dona Leonor High School, comprised of Diogo Miguel Batista de Sousa Correia da Costa, Marta Vale de Almeida Norte, Salvador Veloso Santos and Tomás Lopes Veríssimo de Spínola Costa, and coordinated by teacher Branca Sousa. This team took measurements of magnetic fields in the vicinity of a REN substation, and found that none of them surpassed the recommended reference values, allowing the team to conclude that no risks exist to human health.

MEDEA's 12th edition will start taking applications in October 2020. Students can sign up at http://medea.spf.pt. The measurements are preceded by a preparation course, taught by MEDEA's Coordinator, Horácio Fernandes, a Professor at Instituto Superior Técnico (the Higher Technical Institute of Lisbon), who pointed out that he seeks 'better preparation by the students regarding the measurement of electromagnetic fields'.

About MEDEA:

Launched in 2008, MEDEA is a project of the Portuguese Physics Society and REN - Redes Energéticas Nacionais, aimed at 10th to 12th grade secondary and vocational school students. 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 on the search for scientifically credible information concerning possible effects of these fields on human health. Participating schools receive an instrument 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 results obtained, searches performed and other information relevant to the project. The teams with the best projects will be awarded.


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