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In Arm Wrestling, Teen Beats Robots Hands Down

The entry from Environmental Robots Inc. of Albuquerque.
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The 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.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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