5 Best Programmable Robots Kits for Kids and Adults
Automation is on the rise, not just in large-scale industries but even in our everyday lives. Robots can do jobs that humans used to do faster, easier, and with practically no margin of error. With robot technology becoming more and more common, developing the skill to program them has become a viable learning pathway.
Fortunately, programmable robot kits have made it possible to learn how to program robots without having to sign up to some fancy training session. It’s not just limited for adults, as well. There are a bunch of easy to use robot kits that are specifically designed to get kids interested in robotics.
Programmable robot kits: for kids vs. adults
While robot kits are typically designed to be simple enough for beginners, a distinction still needs to be made between kits that are made for adults and those that are for kids.
Robot kits for kids serve as a way to introduce them to the world of programming, technology, and robotics. Ostensibly, some assembly will still be needed, but robot kits made for kids should not require the use of tools that are inappropriate for their age, such as a soldering iron. The programming language used for these kits is also much simpler, with some of them even making use of visual aids instead of text-based languages.
On the other hand, robot kits made for adults typically use some variant of Arduino programming technology. For beginners, an Arduino platform has template projects and commands that can be replicated as learning aids. The robotics platform can be programmed to perform combinations from a variety of executable tasks.
There may be a lot of assembly involved in robot kits that are designed for adults. These kits can offer several different combinations and orientations that adults can explore, with each one focusing on some robotics or engineering concept. The design principle behind these robot kits is focused on making it accessible enough for adults but also challenging enough to provide fulfillment and a sense of accomplishment.
In any case, robot kits provide a way for both kids and adults to get into the world of basic programming. They foster critical and creative thinking during the assembly phase and the delayed gratification of robot kits that do not come pre-assembled build up the values of fortitude and determination.
The top 5 best programmable robot kits for kids
1. RoboLink Rokit Smart Starter Robot Kit
Coming in first is this starter robot kit from Robolink which boasts of being able to transform into an impressive 11 different types of robots. With so many options, your kid will probably spend hours building and discovering each type of robot in this kit. Assembling the robot from its parts is easy and safe, as all parts can be screwed in place. Wiring is done through conveniently provided ports. This means that your kid won’t need to do any soldering at all.
The different types of robots that you can build with this Robolink robot kit is just varied enough to be interesting every time. You can build a remote-controlled truck that you can actually drive around, or a robot that can move through a maze automatically. You can build a robot that can detect ledges and move away from them, or a robot that crawls and flutters around like a bug.
Each variant is interesting enough by itself and uses the robot’s sensors and motors in unique ways. This means that building each variant provides a different learning experience. Of course, your kid does not need to be bound by just the 11 robots – they can feel free to come up with their own.
The Rokit robot kit has been a preferred learning tool by Robolink, one of the most popular robotics learning centers for kids. Hundreds of kids have benefitted from the self-paced learning opportunity of the Rokit, making it a perfect complement to the usual home-schooling techniques. It’s also one of the more affordable options for robot kits for kids.
2. Lego Mindstorms EV3 Robot Kit
First things first: it’s a Lego product, so kids will certainly have a lot of fun putting together its more than 600 pieces of bricks, wires, sensors, and motors. You don’t even have to restrict yourself to the bricks of the EV3 Robot Kit, as you can always add in any Lego Bricks that you have lying around.
The EV3 comes with an instructional manual to build 17 different robotic designs, each one with its own function and purpose. Once all the motors and sensors are in place, you can sync the robot to the EV3 mobile programming app to control it or adjust its parameters. The robot’s main form, the SPIK3R, is a 16-inch long six-legged creature with movable legs and an articulating tail.
Since this is a Lego product, the assembly of all its models is kid-friendly. No soldering is required, and programming the robots is as simple as drag and dropping pre-defined programming blocks into the robot’s functional module.
The Mindstorms EV3 is one of the most popular robot kits for kids worldwide. It’s also one of the more expensive options. However, its compatibility with the hundreds of other Lego sets means that the possibilities of the EV3 are virtually endless.
3. Makeblock Programmable mBot Ranger Robot Kit
The mBot Ranger is a simpler alternative compared to the previous entries, but it still pretty powerful and certainly a lot of fun. It comes with all the necessary parts for your kid to build their first mBot, which should take roughly 45 minutes. If you find that the options that the original mBot offers are limited, then you can always choose from hundreds of add-on parts to enhance the robots that your kid has built or to build brand-new robots.
Once the robot has been built, defining its function is as simple as dragging a few programming blocks using the companion Makeblock mobile app. The app uses the Scratch graphical programming language, a simple and easy-to-use language that allows kids to come up with complex programs in a simple manner.
The mBot can be built into different robots, with each one offering different functions. You can build a tank-like rover, a two-wheeled vehicle, or a three-wheeled racer. With Makeblock’s array of add-on parts and components, it can be used to create pretty much anything that your child can imagine.
4. WeeeMake DIY WeeeBot Robot Kit
The WeeeBot Robot Kit, when fully assembled, looks just like a toy jeep. While this could be appealing enough on its own, it also comes with two robots: a line-follower robot and a remote control module. It doesn’t offer as much versatility as the other robot kits in this list, but it’s a fun little kit that is perfect for beginners.
The WeeeBot does not come fully assembled, and the assembly process itself is easy and a lot of fun. There’s no soldering required, and the kit comes with all the guides your kid will need to do the wiring properly. Its microchip is replaceable depending on how your kid wants the truck to be controlled.
The programming of the WeeeBot is done completely through the companion mobile app. Since programming is based on Arduino and Scratch, everything is done through a drag-and-drop graphic platform. The concept is easy enough for kids to grasp, and seeing the WeeeBot move around automatically is sure to be a fun experience.
5. Parallax BOE-Bot Robot Kit
If your kid finds the previous entries in the list to be too simple or is simply ready to graduate to a more complex robot kit, then we recommend the BOE-Bot from Parallax. It may look simple on the surface, but the customization options of the BOE-Bot are much more complex.
While the programming interface of the BOE-Bot still uses the usual Arduino and BASIC concepts, the robot itself can be outfitted with a variety of sensors. It uses a breadboard panel, which allows for the addition of components to the robot using simple wiring. Despite the complexity, any type of BOE-Bot build can be done without soldering, so it’s still safe for young kids.
The top 5 best programmable robot kits for adults
1. Makeblock DIY Ultimate Robot Kit
If there’s a robot kit for adults that is recommended across the board, then it has to be the Ultimate Robot Kit from Makeblock. This is a 10-in-1 robot kit that offers a variety of different learning experiences for adults. The robots you can make with this kit range from simple ones such as an ant robot that moves on its legs to more complex robots that can act as camera dolly, a mount for 3D scanning, or a robot that can self-balance.
Most of the moving parts of this robot kit are made of anodized 6061 aluminum, which looks great and is very sturdy. The main control board is the MegaPi microcontroller board which can integrate up 10 ten servo motors, eight DC motors, and for stepper motors.
Despite being designed for adults, the Makeblock Ultimate Robot Kit still offers a graphical block-based programming interface that is perfect for adults. For users who feel that their skill levels can take on higher programming languages, this robot kit can also be programmed using a text-based language. Text-based programming is done using the mBlock desktop software for PC which provides all the guides and tutorial you could need.
2. Official Arduino Starter Kit
Of course, this list would not be complete without the official robot kit from Arduino. Admittedly, this kit isn’t as flashy as many other robot kits in the market, but it’s still versatile enough in terms of features and components to offer a satisfying learning experience.
The Arduino starter kit comes with a breadboard, into which all electrical components are connected to make them interact. Aside from the usual LEDs, resistors, and capacitors, the kit comes with photoresistors, potentiometers, temperature sensors, and tilt sensors that form the basis for the robot’s primary functions.
The programming software does not come included with the starter kit. If you are still new to Arduino, you can download the software from free for their website. The software also comes with detailed guides and tutorials to get you up to speed.
All thing considered, the Arduino starter kit isn’t exactly the most beginner-friendly. The assembly is a little more complicated, and the included guides don’t hold your hand all throughout the process. Still, all those head-scratching moments will all be worth it in the end, as you’ll be assembling so many robots one after the other once you get the hang of it.
3. OWI Robotic Arm Edge
It may seem unusual for a simple robotic arm to become so popular, but the Edge robotic arm from OWI is actually one of the best-selling robotic kits for adults worldwide. Perhaps the limited scope of functions works in favor of the OWI Robotic Arm, keeping its price down while making it a more welcoming starter kit for beginners.
All the components of the OWI Robotic Arm snap together and can be secured with screws – there’s no soldering needed. As you would expect from a robotic arm, it has an impressive range of motion. The base can rotate within 270 degrees and can swing forward and backward over 180 degrees. The arm also has an articulating elbow that has a 300-degree range of motion and a rotating wrist that can rotate over 120 degrees. At the end of the wrist is a gripper that can be commanded to open and close.
There are no advanced programming requirements needed to make the OWI Robotic Arm work. Instead, you only need to assemble the kit and connect the wired controller. The wiring for the controls provides great insight into how motors work and how they respond to electrical stimuli.
4. Yahboom Professional Raspberry Pi Smart Robotic Kit
From something simple, let’s go back to a somewhat complex robot kit. This robot kit from Yahboom is based on Raspberry Pi technology and probably has one of the widest ranges of included components. In addition to the usual motors, resistors, and transistors, the kit also includes an HD camera and a multi-functional controller board that supports four major controllers: Raspberry Pi, UNO R3, STM32, and 51.
The robot kit also boasts of having a high-power 370 motor that allows the robot in tank mode to climb inclines with angles of up to 60 degrees. The camera can be equipped to provide a live feed of 480p video using Raspberry Pi’s compatibility with a 5G WiFi network. This kit does not use a kid-friendly graphical programming system – instead, you’ll need to program using C or Python programming language. It’s easy enough to work your way up to the needed proficiency level, so there’s no need to worry.
Aside from the superior set of electronics, the body of the Yahboom robot kit is similarly impressive. The aluminum alloy frame is lightweight and super-durable. The assembly itself is quite simple, with Yahboom choosing to implement a cable socket design which makes wiring much more intuitive.
5. SunFounder Raspberry Pi Car DIY Robot Kit
This robot kit from SunFounder is another example of a kit that uses Raspberry Pi technology. This time, though, it’s supported by visual programming aids that make it much more accessible for beginners. It also only includes three basic sensors: an ultrasonic sensor for obstacle avoidance, a light follower, and a line follower. Thus, this robot kit is just perfect for not overwhelming those without any robotics experience.
When fully assembled, this robot kit basically looks like a truck with big wheels and a shatterproof plate. Wiring of the components has been deliberately designed with anti-reverse interfaces, so there’s really only a small chance that you can get it wrong. Finally, the robot kit can be programmed using a visual editor that allows for drag-and-drop of programming blocks.
If you want to take it a notch higher, you can always come up with your own programming blocks. Just take note that the control board is based on Raspberry Pi, so you can only use compatible programming languages. We think that the SunFounder robot kit provides just the right amount of challenge and accessibility for users of different skill levels.
Robotics isn’t just something that scientists study, and large companies use to improve their processes. With these kits, you or your kids can build and control your own robots right in the comfort of your living room. The selection is varied enough for children of all ages and for adults with varying levels of experience with robotics and programming.
The thing about these kits is that they look like toys. This characteristic is also its appeal – making your own robots and coming up with a unique sequence of programming steps feels just like playing a game. Whichever kit you choose, one thing’s for sure: assembling and programming the robot will be a good learning experience. A word of warning – we find these kits pretty addictive!