The 10 Best Robot Kits
A Brief History Of Robotics
To recount the history of robotics, we must first define what a robot truly is. According to most sources, a robot is either one of two things: "a machine that resembles a living creature in being capable of moving independently and performing complex actions" or "a device that automatically performs complicated, often repetitive tasks." The first definition is more akin to what we often find in science fiction movies, though we are moving closer to that reality every day, while the second definition can be something as basic as a moving arm on an assembly line.
We feel that any machine that can perform a task without requiring direct, constant control by a human should be considered a robot. If we are working under this assumption, then the first robots were conceived as early as the 4th century B.C.E, when the Greek mathematician Archytas of Tarentum theorized the possibility of a mechanical, steam-driven bird, and 250 B.C.E., when Ctesibius of Alexandria created the clepsydra, a simple water clock that measured the passage of time.
The first definitive record of a humanoid robot design was created by Leonardo da Vinci at the end of the 15th century C.E. His sketches depicted a mechanical knight in full armor that would have been able to move its arms, head, and jaw, as well as sit up on its own. It is questionable, however, whether or not he actually tried to build such a robot. Just 30 or 40 years later, Johannes Müller von Königsberg, a German mathematician, invented an automated eagle made from iron that could actually fly.
The first use of the term robot comes from a 1920s play by the name of Rossum's Universal Robots. Czech playwright Karl Capek, who penned the play, coined the phrase to describe manufactured humanoid mechanical beings that eventually rose up and enslaved their human creators. It comes from the Czech word robota, which means forced labor.
William Grey Walter, a neurophysiologist, cybernetician, and robotician, created the first electronic autonomous robots in 1948. He named his creations Elmer and Elsie. Using phototaxis, they could find their own way to a recharging station when they ran low on power. Since then, the concept of creating true artificial intelligence has increased in popularity, with the current benchmark being a robot's ability to pass the Turing Test.
The Benefits Of Building Robots
Building a working robot teaches children valuable skills that will play a role in many jobs in the future. As technology advances, the need for people who understand these technologies and can improve upon them will increase exponentially. Robot kits help teach STEM skills, subject areas that are vital to success in school. As more and more industries integrate some form of robotics, skills in these subjects will become invaluable in adulthood, too.
Assembling robot kits also improves upon a child's problem solving skills. Anybody who has ever built, assembled, or created anything in their life can vouch for the fact that things rarely go as planned. Along the way, there are always obstacles to overcome that require critical thinking. Children may have to figure out how to adhere certain parts to each other, wire a circuit board, and more.
Some robot kits also require the child to program their robot after assembling it. This can be a great introduction to computer coding in a very hands-on method, and perhaps even motivate a child to one day enter the information technology field as a software developer. Considering this position has a higher-than-average expected growth rate and median salary upwards of $100,000 a year, this can be a very good thing indeed. There is already a large supply and demand gap in the career market for coders, and any way you can increase your child's interest in related subjects will be a boon later in life.
How To Choose The Right Robot Kit For Your Child
Robot kits come in all shapes, sizes, and complexities. Choosing the right robot kit for your child's skill level is vital. One that is too complex will be frustrating, while one that is too simple will quickly bore them. It is also important to choose one that you feel will pique their interest. For example, some children may be more inclined to the physical aspect of building the robot, like soldering pieces together and hooking up circuits, while others may lean more towards the coding aspect. However, every good robot should include at least a minimal amount of each of these activities.
If purchasing a robot kit for a preschool-aged child or one who has recently entered elementary school, it is important to have realistic expectations of what they can and cannot accomplish. Since most kids of this age are results oriented, it is important to choose one that doesn't take very long to build before they can start playing with their finished product. Any coding required in robot kits for children of this age bracket should be very basic, often structured in a game-like manner. A good robot kit for young kids should have durable components. Once assembled, the finished product should also be equally as durable so it won't break when the child plays with it.
As kids get a little older, in the 8- to 10-year-old range, they often begin to enjoy the process of actually building the robot equally as much as playing with it. This means you can get them one that requires more complex assembly. The components don't need to be quite as durable either, since they will have better fine motor skills. Coding, while still something that should be included in some method, should still be relatively basic, perhaps tablet-based. Solar-powered models are a great choice for kids in this age range since they will be able to understand the concepts of renewable energy.
As children move into the pre-teen years, feel free to get them more advanced kits that may require many days worth of work to assemble and hours to program. At this age, they are ready to handle more challenging problems and will feel a huge sense of accomplishment completing a project that took a high degree of effort.