Researchers study how to boost balance performance in football

Researchers study how to boost balance performance in football

An international team of researchers from the University of Madeira and the University of Lisbon carried out a study to improve the performance of young footballers. The project focuses on youngsters between 13 and 16 years old. It  found a relationship between balance performance, body composition, and physical fitness.  

“We identified a gap in the study of balance performance in young footballers, a decisive ability to improve techniques such as dribbling, passing, and positioning among opponents,” says Cíntia França, a researcher at the Interactive Technologies Institute from the Instituto Superior Técnico. 

The researchers found strong relationships between the balance ability of young athletes and the percentage of body fat. The higher this percentage, the worse the performance of athletes in balancing tasks. On the other hand, the strength training and flexibility of the athletes can contribute positively to a greater balance performance. 

The research team, therefore, recommends that young athletes’ football coaches  promote balance training together with other exercises. “Sports agents should consider including exercises focused on the development of physical fitness, including strength, in the training process. In addition, monitoring body composition, particularly the percentage of body fat, is essential to avoid its negative effect on physical performance,” adds Cíntia França. 

Next step: longitudinal studies

To understand the impacts of the proposed methodology, the team has already outlined follow-up plans. “The objective is to follow up with these young soccer players longitudinally. We would need to study their progress in body composition and physical fitness. This way we can understand the effects of long-term training”, concludes the researcher. 

This research was carried out within the scope o the Marítimo Training Lab project, which aims to develop a high-performance training center for the Marítimo da Madeira football club. In addition to Portuguese institutions, the study also included the collaboration of researchers from research institutions in Brazil, Switzerland, and Poland. 

Researchers develop technology to detect dangerous mosquitoes

Researchers develop technology to detect dangerous mosquitoes

The researcher Dinarte Vasconcelos is developing a tech solution within the scope of his Doctoral thesis. “My research aims to produce an economically viable solution packed with a set of sensors that can detect dangerous mosquitoes and distinguish them from other insects,” says the researcher.  Nuno Nunes and João Pedro Gomes, professors at the Instituto Superior Técnico, and researchers at the Institute of Interactive Technologies (ITI) and Institute of Systems and Robotics (ISR), respectively advise the research project.

Mosquitoes inhabit various regions of the world, with more than 3,000 species already identified in the world. Some of these are transmission vectors of several diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, or dengue. According to the World Health Organization, 627,000 people died of malaria in 2020.

The first prototype

Initially, the researchers performed tests using microphones that captured the sound of  flapping wings.  This allows sensors to detect dangerous mosquitoes close. “As the frequency of the flapping of the wings varies between species, it is possible to recognize the pattern of the species found by the microphones,” explains Dinarte Vasconcelos. However, this approach allowed only the measurement within a short range.  Morevover, the system was not prepared to handle background noise. With the inclusion of infrared optical sensors, it was possible to increase the system’s reach and make it resilient against ambient noise. However, the existence of multiple species of insects requires the use of artificial intelligence to achieve better results. “We will need a database to identify which of the detected insects are mosquitoes,” he adds.

Testing in Thailand

Under favorable conditions, a female mosquito can hatch between 100 and 200 eggs in 7 days. For this reason, the prototype must be able to distinguish males and females. “The laboratory tests we did in partnership with the Natural History Museum of Funchal reveal that the prototype correctly identified more than 90% of mosquitoes are concerning species and sex,” says Dinarte Vasconcelos. The researcher carried out further testing in Thailand, in partnership with Mahidol University. Here, the malaria-transmitting mosquitoes – Aedes and Anopheles are abundant. Dinarte and a local team ran experiments near the Rajanagarindra Tropical Disease International Centre (RTIC). The team placed  light and dry ice traps to attract mosquitoes. These tests were important to calibrate sensors, identify problems and improve detection in a real life environment.

Sensor to detect mosquitoes
The researchers tested the technology in Thailand

A precious tool to health authorities

Once finalized, the prototype will be able to transmit information to health authorities. It will use radio frequency to transmit information, since it is more energy efficient than WiFi, thus allowing a real-time mapping of mosquito presence. In this sense, the Interactive Technologies Institute, the University College London, and the Regional Directorate of Health of Madeira signed a research protocol to develop a monitoring system in Funchal.

In the future, researchers intend to continue the development of the technology so that it can distinguish between mosquitoes and other insects. Additionally to serving the original purpose, the same technology can be used to monitor other insect species of special interest such as bees and other pollinators, whose population has been dwelling over the past few years.

Portugal leads climate neutrality project funded with € 5 million

Bauhaus of the Seas Sails is a project led by Portugal to achieve climate neutrality and funded with € 5 million

Bauhaus of the Sea Sails is one of the projects selected under the call for the development of ‘lighthouse demonstrators’ of the New European Bauhaus (NEB) that will focus on climate neutrality.

The project, selected for funding of approximately €5 million by the European Commission, will pursue the broad Vision of the New Bauhaus of the Seas to demonstrate and archive solutions for climate neutrality. There is a particular focus on coastal cities as an interface to healthy seas, ocean and water bodies.  Instituto Superior Técnico will lead a network of 18 project partners and gather a multidisciplinary research team ranging from Universities to Municipalities and Museums, across six European countries. The Project will also count on the institutional support of international partners such as the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program (CMU Portugal).

Why the ocean?

The project team chose the Ocean as the main focus of the project because of its ecological impact and housing relevance – oceans capture a third of CO2 emissions and coastal areas are home to 41% of the European population. “The oceans currently face several challenges such as plastic pollution, reduced fish stocks or rising sea levels. With this project, we want to promote an interdisciplinarity ecosystem between designers, architects, engineers, artists, managers and scientists with the vision of creating sustainable design solutions to solve environmental problems in coastal areas”, says the project coordinator Nuno Jardim Nunes, Full Professor at Técnico and head of the Interactive Technologies Institute (ITI), one of the participant institutions.

Where will the project take place?

With this goal in mind, the Bauhaus of the Sea Sails will implement seven demonstrators located in European coastal regions. These include two in Portugal (Lisbon and Oeiras), two in Italy (Venice and Genova), and one in four other countries: Sweden (Malmø), Germany (Hamburg), the Netherlands and Belgium (Rhine delta). Additionally, the project plans to deploy observers in Azores and Madeira’s autonomous regions and other Portuguese-speaking countries.
The lighthouse demonstrators will exhibit artistic projects focused on the oceans, taking them from a cultural, artistic and closed circle to the streets, neighborhoods and close to the community. “This project will create opportunities for interaction with communities to achieve an environmentally sustainable, socially fair and appealingly transition”, adds the project lead.

In Lisbon and Oeiras, the project will be based in the future “Hub do Mar”, in Pedrouços, where the consortium will develop various demonstration activities related to the blue economy. Moreover, the team will focus on ocean literacy, sustainable food and solutions to mitigate and adapt to rising sea levels.

The “New European Bauhaus” Program, which funds the six selected projects, aims at creating more sustainable, inclusive, and beautiful spaces in locations across the EU and involving citizens in the green transition at the local level. The projects will contribute with innovative ideas and solutions within two years, helping to point the way forward for other NEB actions.