The 10 Best Robot Kits

Updated March 14, 2018 by Lydia Chipman

10 Best Robot Kits
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 37 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top picks for this wiki. With home automation taking over the mundanities of household management, self-driving cars roaming the streets, and smartphones guiding us through our daily routines, artificial intelligence is everywhere these days. Building and programming machines isn't just for nerds anymore, and these robot kits make it easy and fun to hone your information-age DIY skills. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best robot kit on Amazon.

10. Smithsonian Robo Spider

The Smithsonian Robo Spider is offered at a surprisingly bargain-bin price point, and the prospect of terrorizing the household with a motorized creepy-crawly may be just the motivation certain young learners need to get excited about STEM education.
  • appropriate for ages 8 and up
  • plastic parts wear out quickly
  • requires adult supervision
Brand Smithsonian
Model 52278
Weight 11.2 ounces
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

9. Makeblock DIY

Putting a friendly face on the equivalent of an itty-bitty Sherman tank or whimsical 3-wheeler, the Makeblock DIY starter set employs Scratch 2.0 and Arduino to program and manipulate the plucky little vehicle to your geeky heart's content.
  • available in bluetooth or ir version
  • connecting to pc may be tricky
  • directions leave much to be desired
Brand Makeblock
Model pending
Weight 3.1 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

7. Thames and Kosmos Smart Machines

Building the 8 customizable motorized bots included in the Thames and Kosmos Smart Machines set provides a multisensory introduction to the fundamentals of robotics design and functionality. Straightforward instructions and preloaded demo programs simplify the process.
  • ultrasonic sensor control
  • comes with illustrated user guide
  • bt-enabled smart device required
Brand Thames & Kosmos
Model 620375
Weight 3.3 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

6. Owi Robotic Arm Edge

Designed to introduce kids to basic programming and automation concepts via the assembly and coding process, the Owi Robotic Arm Edge has a rotating base and an articulated gripper with a wide range of motion for grasping and manipulating objects within its reach.
  • attachable to fixed or mobile base
  • good starter project for beginners
  • handling tiny parts may be difficult
Brand OWI
Model OWI-535
Weight 2.4 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

5. Hexbug Vex IQ

The Hexbug Vex IQ combines snap-together components with an open-source design to create STEM learning experiences that are as endlessly entertaining as they are accessible. It comes preloaded with basic programming software and a dozen self-configuring input/output ports.
  • includes gaming-style remote control
  • no tools required for assembly
  • yearly international competitions
Brand Hexbug
Model 228-4444
Weight 7 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

4. Dexter Industries GoPiGo

Taking Raspberry Pi on the road, the Dexter Industries GoPiGo is inexpensive and easy enough for a child to assemble, but every bit as engaging for grown-ups to tinker with. Comprehensive online support and documentation provide a wealth of tools for customizing your Pi.
  • programmable using scratch
  • smartphone and browser compatible
  • no soldering required
Brand Dexter Industries
Model 2
Weight 2.2 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

3. Dash and Dot by Wonder Workshop

With their playful design and easy-to-use coding interface, Dash and Dot by Wonder Workshop can charm the socks off aspiring programmers of all ages. They play music and games, launch miniature projectiles and teach problem-solving skills through engaging activities.
  • suitable for kids as young as 6
  • cross-platform smartphone compatible
  • can be used with lego bricks
Brand Wonder Workshop
Model 1-WB04-01
Weight 8 pounds
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

2. Lego Mindstorms EV3

The name every high-tech tinkering kid has drilled into their parents' brains is Lego Mindstorms EV3, the brick-based set that transforms into multiple prototypes and can be programmed using an intuitive drag-and-drop interface or more advanced coding options.
  • comes with various practice missions
  • interactive voice control
  • well-established online community
Brand LEGO
Model 6029291
Weight 5.1 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

1. Elegoo Mega 2560

The Elegoo Mega 2560 project package offers everything you need to start building and coding with Arduino – at a remarkably painless price point. Backed by a reputation for superior technical support and customer service, it's the ultimate swag for amateur roboticists.
  • includes cd with over 35 tutorials
  • organizing storage case
  • geared toward pre-teens to adults
Brand Elegoo
Model EL-KIT-008
Weight 2.2 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

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.

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Last updated on March 14, 2018 by Lydia Chipman

An itinerant wordsmith with a broad constellation of interests, Lydia Chipman has turned iconoclasm into a livelihood of sorts. Bearing the scars and stripes of an uncommon diversity of experience—with the notable exceptions of joining a religious order or becoming an artist—she still can’t resist the temptation to learn something new.

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