Building robots is fun. Programming them to do tricks and perform tasks? Even more fun. And it remains fun, whether you’re six, 16, or well on your way to 60. Now, finding programmable robot kits is no longer the challenge it used to be. However, much of what you can get out there is geared towards younger children, especially with the push for STEM education we’ve seen in recent years. And while we appreciate those, they tend to offer too little challenge or engagement for teens and older individuals who have recently developed a nascent interest in robotics, too.
Fortunately, there are robotic kits out there that’s better suited for those with slightly more advanced requirements. Here are some that we like.
A self-balancing two-wheeled robot, it can stand up on its own, avoid obstacles, follow objects, and perform a number of pre-programmed functions out of the box. Well… as soon as you assemble it, of course. Once you’ve got your fill of those built-in capabilities, you can begin modifying the codes or uploading your own via Arduino IDE, as well as add new sensors via the multiple reserve pins available on its board. It’s one of the best quality robot kits we’ve actually seen, with solid parts and well-made electronic components, on top of being a lot of fun to play with.
SunFounder PiArm Robot Arm Kit
This robot arm, which is designed to be paired with a Raspberry Pi board (it’s compatible with 3B, 3B+, and 4B), comes with three swappable heads: a claw, an excavation bucket, and an electromagnet, allowing it to carry out different functions, depending on the task you want done. Use the claw to grab objects, the bucket to scoop up sand, and the magnet to perform pick-and-place on ferrous objects, among a whole host of potential projects. It can move sideways a full 90 degrees, up, down, forwards, and backwards, allowing for a good amount of movements, all controllable from the included wired joystick pad. Programming can be done via a visual interface on mobile or Python for more advanced users.
Yahboom Microbit Smart Car Robot V2
No, it’s not an actual car. Instead, it’s a two-wheeled robot they call a “smart car” that uses a Micro:bit board computer (included). It comes with two DC motors and three servos, as well as an acceleration sensor, a magnetic sensor, an ultrasonic sensor, a pair of programmable buttons, and 25 LEDs, among other electronic components, so there are plenty of parts here to play with. The kit comes with 30 experiment courses to serve as an introduction to programming the robot, which can be done in any language supported by Micro:bit, including Python, MakeCode, and more.
Freenove Big Hexapod Robot Kit
Why build a robot that can walk on two feet when you can build one that can walk on six? That’s right… a spider-bot. That’s exactly what you’ll get with this self-balancing hexapod kit. Not only can you make it crawl around like a creepy giant arachnid using those 20 included servos, but you can see what it sees in live view, as there’s a video camera onboard, along with a few other sensors, such as an ultrasonic module, accelerometer, and gyroscope. It requires purchasing a Raspberry Pi board (supports 3A+, 3B, 3B+, and 4A) and four Li-ion 18650 cells separately, with a thorough tutorial available online, so there’s no shortage of resources to help you get going.
Who doesn’t want a robot tank? Nobody. That’s why we have a feeling you’ll love this kit, with its treaded wheels, aluminum body, and robot arm with four degrees of freedom and an acrylic mechanical claw. While a robot arm won’t shoot out ammo like a tank gun, you can make it hold whatever weapon you want to unleash an attack. It has downloadable functions for object recognition, object tracking, and motion detection, so there’s plenty of autonomous capabilities on board without having to write a single lick of code, although you’ll need to buy a Raspberry Pi board separately (supports all 3 and 4 models) to get it up and running. There’s even a 1080p camera onboard with two degrees of movement freedom, although it’s mounted below the arm, so you don’t exactly get the best first-person view. Other features include two 130 rpm DC motors, three servos, and a small 1-inch OLED screen. Do note, it doesn’t come with the best instruction manual, so you’ll have to figure out a good part of the build all on your own.
Yahboom Jetbot Jetson Nano
Want to store up on your AI skills while getting your robotics jollies? Pick up this set based on Nvidia’s Jetson Nano Developer Kit, which puts the AI-focused module in a tank-like robot with a lift arm. You’ll need to buy a Jetson Nano B01 separately, by the way, but once you do, you get access to the full range of the robot’s capabilities, which include responding to visual gestures, color recognition, and even edge recognition, so it will never fall off a table, among others. Being an AI robot that can run multiple neural networks in parallel, it’s capable of learning so many things, too, making this a potentially fun toy for anyone interested in intelligent automations. Robot features include an HD camera mounted on 3-DOF platform, OLED display, dual motors for mobility, a lifting motor and two servos for the lift arm, and 31 downloadable courses to get you started.
Robotis Bioloid Premium
You’ve had your fun with the relatively cheap robotic kits and want something a little more substantial. Take the next step with this modular kit that offers nearly unlimited play potential. The center of attraction here is the ability to build a humanoid robot with 18 degrees of freedom, allowing you to build your own mini-Robocop to wreak havoc in your workshop. Why is it so expensive? Because it’s packaged with so many components, including 18 Dynamixel DC motors, gyro, distance measurement sensor, IR sensor, and more. They did that to allow maximum flexibility in the kind of robots you can build. That’s right, you’re not just restricted to creating a single humanoid – you can use the kit to build any of 29 different robots. Being a more advanced robot, it comes with a CM-530 controller with an ARM CPU, so you will be engaging in coding that’s very applicable to real-world applications.