In Arm Wrestling, Teen Beats Robots Hands Down

Panna Felsen arm wrestles a Virginia Tech team's artificial arm. i i

hide captionHigh school senior Panna Felsen, 17, arm wrestles an artificial arm built by a team from Virginia Tech. It's one of three robotic arms she defeated in Monday's international competition held in San Diego, Calif.

Yoseph Bar-Cohen/NASA/JPL
Panna Felsen arm wrestles a Virginia Tech team's artificial arm.

High school senior Panna Felsen, 17, arm wrestles an artificial arm built by a team from Virginia Tech. It's one of three robotic arms she defeated in Monday's international competition held in San Diego, Calif.

Yoseph Bar-Cohen/NASA/JPL
Robotic arm

hide captionThe entry from Environmental Robots Inc. of Albuquerque.

In a woman-against-machine competition, the robots didn't stand a chance. Panna Felsen, a 17-year-old high school student from San Diego, needed just 24 seconds to beat an artificial arm in an international arm-wrestling match.

And she didn't stop there, downing two more robotic competitors — one in just three seconds.

The contest was organized by Dr. Yoseph Bar-Cohen, a senior researcher at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Melissa Block talks to Bar-Cohen about technology that uses electroactive polymers — a little known class of plastics that expand and contract when jolted by an electrical charge — to develop artificial muscles in robots.

Bar-Cohen says he hopes the technology improves so that robotic arms can eventually compete against — and beat — world-champion arm wrestlers. The artificial muscles could lead to prosthetics and other devices, he says.

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