One of the best ways to learn about robotics is to be hands-on and build your own robot. Below you will find a list of robot kits that we have carefully selected and reviewed. For all those new to robotics, we would highly recommend starting with the Lego Mindstorms NXT. There is no other robot available, which is both easy to get started with for beginners and versatile enough, to allow more experienced Roboticist to adapt and expand the robots capabilities.

 
LEGO Mindstorms EV3Lego Mindstorms EV3
  LEGO Mindstorms EV3 – © LEGO

In 1998 Lego introduced its first version of Lego Mindstorms sold as the Robotics Invention System (RIS). Although this first version proved popular, it wasn’t until 2006 and the release of Lego Mindstorms NXT that Lego and robotics really took off. The latest version is the Lego Mindstorms EV3 released in January 2013… Read more

 

This is an excellent robot kit for any level user. The supplied software is designed for users from 7 – 16 and is well documented allowing for users to get something working very quickly.

 

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littleBits (by littleBits Electronics)littleBits (by littleBits Electronics)
  littleBits – © littleBits Electronics

littleBits is a beginners electronics kit designed for younger people in mind. The Base Kit is the perfect way to unleash creativity in kids and those new to electronics, empowering them to create inventions of every shape and size, with no prior experience. Your kids (and you!) can learn the basics of electronics, explore STEAM/STEM principles, form the foundations of critical thinking, or just have fun with blinking, buzzing creations. Bits snap together with magnets, so it’s impossible to make a mistake. The Base Kit comes 10 Bits and a step-by-step guidebook to get you started with 8 easy-to-make inventions, with hundreds more possibilities online. You can control a car with the DC motor and light sensor, or scare your friends with a hidden button and a buzzer. It’s the perfect way to get little inventors building, with no soldering, wiring or programming required.

 

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Boe-Bot (by Parallax)Boe-Bot (by Parallax)
  Boe-Bot Robot Kit – © Parallax
The Boe-Bot Robot is popular hobbyist robot kit with a large community of support and materials available freely online. The robot comprises of a BASIC Stamp microcontroller coupled with a breadboard circuit that allows for user expansion. Both a Serial and USB version are available. 

 

 

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ASURO (by Arexx Engineering)ASURO (by Arexx Engineering)
  ASURO Robot Kit – © Arexx Engineering
ASURO is a tiny mobile robot developed for educational purposes by DLR, the German aerospace centre. It is very flexible and completely programmable in C. Assembly is easy for experienced electronic technicians and feasible for a novice. 

Except for the printed circuit boards (PCB) only standard parts are utilised and freeware tools can be used for programming. Therefore ASURO is exceptionally suitable as an introduction into processor-controlled hobby electronics, for projects in schools and universities, for studies and adult education centres. Special tools, which are freeware for private users, have been used for all electronic development phases and software design, proving that robots can be designed without expensive tools or machines. 

ASURO is equipped with an Atmel AVR RISC-processor and two independently controlled motors, an optical line-tracer, six collision-detector switches, two odometer-sensors, three indicator LEDs and an IR-Interface for programming and remote controlling by a PC. 

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Pololu 3pi RobotPololu 3pi Robot
  Pololu 3pi Robot Kit – ©  Pololu Corporation
The Pololu 3pi robot is a complete, high-performance mobile platform featuring two micro metal gear-motors, five reflectance sensors, an 8×2 character LCD, a buzzer, and three user pushbuttons, all connected to a C-programmable ATmega328 microcontroller. Capable of speeds exceeding 3 feet per second, 3pi is a great first robot for ambitious beginners and a perfect second robot for those looking to move up from non-programmable or slower beginner robots. 

 

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SumoBot (by Parallax)SumoBot Robot (by Parallax)
  SumoBot Robot – © Parallax
If you think one robot is interesting, wait until you see two of them battling for control Sumo-style. The SumoBot Robot is a competition-ready robot designed within the Northwest Robot Mini-Sumo Tournament rules. This little pusher will locate and knock its opponent right out of the ring while detecting the outside circle should an escape move be necessary. 

The electronics consists of a surface-mounted BASIC Stamp 2 module and infrared sensors to detect your opponent and the edge of the Sumo Ring. The hardware package includes the black anodised aluminium chassis and scoop, servo motors, wheels, 4AA power pack (batteries not included) mounting standoffs and screws. The documentation takes you from basic moves to one-on-one combat. The general topics introduced in the SumoBot Manual are as follows:

  • Basic SumoBot locomotion under program control
  • Edge avoidance and opponent detection based on a variety of sensor inputs
  • Navigation opponent seeking using programmed artificial intelligence

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Lynx Robotic Arm (by Lynxmotion)Lynx Robotic Arm (by Lynxmotion)
  Lynx Robotic Arm – © Lynxmotion
The Lynx robotic arm delivers fast, accurate, and repeatable movement. The robot features: base rotation, single plane shoulder, elbow, wrist motion, a functional gripper, and optional wrist rotate. Everything needed to assemble and operate the robot is included in the kit, including RIOS, a very powerful Windows program for the SSC-32 servo controller. 

The aluminium robotic arm is made from our Servo Erector Set components for the ultimate in flexibility and expandability. The kit consists of black anodised aluminium brackets, aluminium tubing and hubs, custom injection molded components, and precision laser-cut Lexan components. 

The main benefits of the Lynx robotic arm are:

  • Large online community, with many packages being developed specifically for use with the Lynx robotic arm
  • Services available for Microsoft Robotics Studio [Read more]
  • Relatively cheap compared to other robotic arm systems

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iRobot Create (by iRobot)iRobot Create
  iRobot Create – © iRobot
iRobot Create is a complete robot development kit that allows you to program new robot behaviours without having to worry about mechanical assembly and low-level code. iRobot Create’s Open Interface (OI) provides you with a set of commands, such as “drive” commands, demo commands, song commands and sensor commands, that encourage your own inventiveness. 

With iRobot Create, you can develop new behaviours and add third party electronics, all without having to worry about mechanical robustness or low-level control. You can attach and control other hardware and electronic devices to iRobot Create; such as a robotic arm, light display, or a ranging sensor. 

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Edge Robotic Arm (OWI-535)Edge robotic arm
  Edge Robotic Arm
There are two versions of this robotic arm available. One version is compatible with USB, and the other has a joystick for controlling the robot without a computer. As a toy the arm is very good for the price, and fun for children of all ages. It must be noted that there are no official libraries for interfacing with the USB version of the arm. 

For the hobbyist the arm has the potential to be adapted, either by hacking the electronics or by using a third-party (open source) library. Details how to do this can be found here: 

Adding a Microprocessor:
Third party libraries (open source):

 

 

Razor Robotics Top Pick!   

LEGO Mindstorms EV3

This is an excellent robot kit for any level user. The supplied software is designed for users from 7 – 16 and is well documented allowing for users to get something working very quickly.

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