I remember building my first soccer robot during my early university days. In order to get an A in the robotics class our robot had to qualify for a football tournament. This meant that our robot had to successfully find and shoot 1 orange table tennis ball into a goal. Our robot managed to do just that and then it broke down.
There was some kind of mechanical problem with the parts which we never figured out. But in our defence we had built our machine from scrap. Luckily, years have passed since then and now we have available on the market many premade robot kits. Here are the best robot kits:
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The Makeblock Bluetooth Arduino robot kit is great for beginners. Not too many complicated parts. The robust aluminium parts can be dropped without breaking. Although we do not recommend it for every part. Unlike some advanced kits no soldering is required!
Ultrasonic and infrared sensors and receivers give it the ability to detect obstacles. Furthermore it can be built either as a robot tank or a three-wheel robot car.
Not the best looking robot but definitely among the more functional while maintaining an affordable price. Easy to assemble with just a screwdriver. No soldering required. Assembling instructions are layed out clearly here.
Functionality is limited to the (ultrasonic distance and line following ) sensors and your ability to program routines for various situations. You can buy additional upgrades for a small fee at the store.
12. LEGO 17101 Boost
The Lego 17101 Boost Robotis kit looks amazing. The finished robot has a very Wall-E reminiscient vibe, almost humanoid. It’s a great option for children because of the step-by-step kid friendly instructions on your tablet.
Not only does it have all the basic sensors you’d expect but it’s also compatible with all other lego construction sets.
Customize away! Up to 5 basic models to choose from: Vernie the Robot, M.T.R.4 Rover, Guitar4000, Frankie the Cat, the AutoBuilder. Even more if you combine it with other construction sets. Room for growth if your child likes it.
With the Lego Mindstorms EV3 Robot kit we are getting into the more expensive models. The touch, infrared and colour sensors allow for clever ways for the robot to interact with its environment. Unlike some other models, you can remote control the Mindstorms through an included control device or with your smart phone, laptop or tablet.
Much like the LEGO 17101 it’s compatible with other lego construction sets. It offers a lot of possibilities but accordingly the learning curve is a bit steeper.
Finally, we are getting into some robot kits for adults. The prices are still reasonable but for some reason the parts are now even more delicate. Care is advised when handling parts. Rasperry is a small low cost alternative computer mostly used by programming enthusiasts.
It’s powerful in functionality but the learning curve might not appropriate for children and less enthusiastic adults. Be ready for hardship and having to figure stuff out for yourself.
This is primarily a programming robot. Not much assembly is required. Designed for both kids and adults. To program it you need the free cosmo app compatible with both Android and iOS.
However, I advise against using it long term due to Anki having ceased development and manufacturing of further models. They still have a support center up but no support staff.
The cheapest robot kit in this list. Maybe not the most exciting piece of hardware but easy to assemble. I would recommend it for young children if it weren’t already a choking hazard.
The Meccano Meccaspider robot stands out for it’s ability to spray liquids and a pattern memorization game among many others. It has inbuilt controls but you can also access it via a smart device. Detecting the environment occures through the infrared sensor but for best performance make sure you have a flat surface to play on.
Runs on 5 C batteries that may run out fairly quickly. Best suited for a more younger audience since function is limited. Assembly can be complicated and adult supervision is recommended.
6. THYMIO ROBOT
Ready to use out of the box. This robot kit requires no assembly and you can directly get around to learning how to program it. Like many others, it comes with it’s own free app that you can use to program Thymio. It allows 5 programming languages: VPL, Scratch, Blockly Aseba Studio and text based instructions.
With 9 proximity sensors Thymio is highly adaptable to it’s environment.
Line tracking, infrared, ultrasonic sensors allow for a wide variety of functionality. Unlike some other construction sets on this list the 4 wheel drive allows for mobility on various terrains. Setting it up helps a high quality tutorial on a CD that’s included.
One possible downside is the bluetooth which might be problematic but maybe that’s an uncommon problem.
An enhanced sumo robot. The Pololu Zumo Arduino robot comes the classic line sensor and 2 infrared sensors for proximity warnings in the front. A nice liquid crystal display for more direct communication with the machine. It’s a bit pricey but it’s robust and reliable.
3. Petoi Bittle
Not a toy for small kids. Parental guidance is advised for assembly. Petoi has just overdelivered with their kickstarter and after their success with opencat it seems like they will continue to build awesome toys.
The Bittle ( a robot dog) which looks a lot like the machines from Boston Dynamics is agile and seems like it will also be highly functional with a wide variety of sensors. The most fragile parts will be easy to replace which goes to show how clever and customer friendly the design is.
What I like about the Rover V2 is the rechargable LiPo. Unlike some other models that require purchasing of batteries, the rover can be recharged without additional cost except the small electricity bill. Furthermore, it’s great for most terrains due to the continuous track system.
It’s arduino based which means you need to be comfortable with programming and looking up solutions on the internet.
The Hydraulic Robotic Arm Kit is a little different from other machines on this list. It doesn’t run on electricity but instead utilizes hydraulics.
The design is beautiful and consists of 229 pieces so parental guidance is probably needed. Possibly a great beginner kit before introducing construction sets that require programming.
The Bottom Line
When choosing the best robot kit you need to account for your child’s ability and your own desire to help out. Some projects may take multiple hours to complete. When starting out I recommend you start with something cheap and simple in order to gauge your child’s interest in robotics. A simple robot has the added benefit of not overwhelming the child by not causing frustration and maintaining a long-term interest in engineering.