The world of robotics is advancing at a swift pace. We’ve reached a point at which children as young as three years old are using simple robotics kits to create their first computer-controlled machines.
If your child has shown a curiosity for electronics and robotics, there are many ways to encourage a path toward science and engineering.
The following examples of robotics kits for beginners, including some aimed specifically at children, are a great place to start that encouragement as well as additional research into the seemingly endless options for similar products.
Robotics Kits for Kids
One of the greatest challenges with robotics, especially for younger children, is that it generally requires learning a new “programming” language. This can be difficult for young children who have yet to master their spoken language. Therefore, it’s important to look for robotics kits that include visual aids and rudimentary instructions.
According to robotics manufacturers, many of the robotics kits designed for children use simplified languages for programming the robots, while others use the most simple instructions that are part of a larger language. Here are some popular kits:
Primo is a great example of how the field of robotics can be translated for younger children. By using a “playful, physical programming language”, Primo helps children age 3-7 learn programming logic without the need for literacy.
By using colored tiles and a simple instruction board, kids can develop the logical mindset necessary for more advanced robotics and programming later in life.
Primo is available for pre-order now ($349 + shipping), and is expected to ship this summer.
Less a robot, more a computer, Kano provides a simple way for anyone to get started with computer programming. With a Raspberry Pi module at the center, Kano is capable of more than you might expect.
With a simple and flexible computing kit, kids are able to make games like Pong and Minecraft, browse the web, and do many things that ‘traditional’ computers are known for, without the need for advanced coding languages.
Kano is available for pre-order now ($129 + shipping), and is expected to ship next month.
We all know that curious kids love playing and learning with LEGOs®, but their products go beyond stacking bricks. Originally developed in the 1990’s, LEGO® Mindstorms have evolved quite a bit in recent years. In the fall of 2013, LEGO® released Mindstorms EV3, the most advanced kit yet.
LEGO® Mindstorms are some of the most comprehensive (albeit expensive) robotics kits available today. The latest kit comes with instructions for five different robot models (plus more available online) and the ability to even control the robots via an iPad app, Lego has really gone the extra mile in making robotics both fun and engaging.
Though the price is a little on the high side ($350 today), the reviews on Amazon are overwhelmingly positive.
One of the most popular robotics platforms available today is Arduino, an open-source project designed around easy-to-use hardware and software. Arduino kits vary greatly in regards to complexity. Some Arduino kits are very simple and designed for younger students or beginners, while some of the more advanced Arduino kits are appropriate for skilled hobbyists.
While Arduino is a flexible platform with many options, the programming language is a bit more complex, and these kits are better suited for kids starting around age 10-12, whereas some of the previous options we’ve covered would be better for younger children.
For those who aren’t familiar, Raspberry Pi is a computing platform that has taken the world by storm over the last few years. With a price point starting around $35, these computer modules are designed for maximum flexibility.
Aside from robotics purposes, people have designed a variety of things using Raspberri Pi, from automatic cat feeders to a robot that rolls around on tank treads and shoots Nerf darts via remote control.
While some of these projects are more advanced than necessary for kids, there are great projects for teaching kids about robotics as well.
Not only can you find great Raspberry Pi project ideas and instructions on sites like Makezine and Instructables, beginners may want to start with an easy kit such as BrickPi which combines Raspberry Pi and LEGOs, the Pololu 3pi two-wheeled robot, or the Parallax ActivityBot kit which is a little spendier, but provides a great learning platform for kids who are serious about learning robotics.
Image credit: LEGO Mindstorms courtesy of The LEGO Group.