How would you like the idea of building a sophisticated and well-designed robot from scratch? And program it to do you’re your menial tasks for you? Need a drink while you’re watching Netflix but can’t be bothered to get up? Let your DIY robot do it for you. Or perhaps you could even grant it rudimentary speech? Or maybe advanced mobility so that it performs some impressive aerobatics?
And before you think it, no, you wouldn’t need a fancy degree or in-depth knowhow of robotics to get started. The process of building a programmable robot from scratch can be as simple as buying a robot kit and turning to the manuals that ship with it. And when you get stuck, you can consult YouTube videos.
A caveat though, most robot kits are for everyone of any age, but many robot kits are appropriate for a specific age and skill level. They include robot kits for adults and advanced users. An adult robot kit doesn’t necessarily mean a robot kit for advanced users — there are adults too who may have acquired their interest in robotics later in life and want to get started in the least complicated manner possible. You’re never too late or too old to learn, right?
The emergence and popularity of robot kits, as well as their affordability and wide range of brands, are proof that robotics and artificial intelligence are very much alive. And it seems that they’re here to stay.
So read on, as we breakdown some of the best robot kits recommended for adults.
If you’re an educator, some hands-on robotics experience for your STEM students can be valuable to get down to the nitty-gritties. But let’s face it. Setting up the hardware and software components is nothing short of a hassle. But what if it wasn’t? What if assembling the hardware and programming wasn’t intimidating?
The Bioloid STEM Standard Kit makes an ideal introduction to adults who want to learn using the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) method. The unit comes with two richly-illustrated booklets with 21 weeks’ worth of educational material. They feature the technical concepts of building this robot told in a step-by-step manner.
This unit is organized into seven chapters. You can build seven different robots from only one robot kit, plus you can also create your own designs, so let those creative juices flow!
The RobotGeek Snapper Core Arduino Robot Arm also makes for a great ‘starter’ kit for beginner enthusiasts trying to test the waters. It’ll work right out of the box, thanks to the pre-installed control panel and sample code.
In addition to the physical control panel and programmed code, you can also control your Snapper directly via PC link.
Controlled by Arduino, this set contains 180-degree servo motors, an FS90 Micro servo motor for the grip, as well as other essential parts, nuts, bolts, and wires. It doesn’t come with the Arduino board though, so you have to buy it separately.
Although a tad expensive than most arms you’d find in the market, a closer look at its feature set tells you that it is a no-nonsense arm kit and well worth the asking price. A good case in point would be the parallel grip mechanism in the claw gives it a secure grip.
This robot kit is another fine pick for educators trying to introduce their students to robotics 101, but unlike our previous entry, this kit isn’t limited to STEM students. Whether your target audience is middle schoolers or college students, this kit offers something for everyone. And yes, that also includes the hobbyists. I’ll explain why.
This robot kit is designed for those who have never had any robotics or programming experience, so it won’t be daunting since it comes with an easy-to-follow tutorial. This kit is as close as you’ll get to a ‘plug-and-play’ experience. All you have to do is insert the batteries and you’re all set.
You won’t even need prior programming experience to get it to work. You just have to consult YouTube tutorials or download an occasional bit of code, and you’re golden. That’s why it’s so beginner-friendly.
And if you’re deterred by pricey kits, this Shield isn’t just beginner-friendly, it’s pocket-friendly too. Said another way: if the price is a deal-breaker for you, this pick is for you.
Because this robot kit is controlled by Arduino, which is an open-source platform, it allows you to create your electronic circuits. It can be augmented by available expansion elements such as sensors and other hardware.
If you want a more personalized robot — you know, the one you may want to converse or interact with — then the Meccano Mecccanoid G15 should be the one for you. It comes with a thousand phrases and voice recognition which make the Meccanoid your perfect robotic buddy.
This bot is a 4 feet tall humanoid. It walks. It talks. And it interacts. It runs on the proprietary engine by Meccano, called the ‘Mecca Brain’ which lets you hold seamless conversations with your bot and even play games with it.
And in terms of simplicity, this bot is as straightforward as they come. Controlled by your smartphone, it can be programmed to mirror your own movements. This mimicking is made possible by the camera from your phone and a motion-capture interface. What’s there to not like?
This robot kit is well outfitted with several different parts which allow the user to build a wide range of robots apart from the humanoid robot. The Meccano Meccanoid G15 won the Toy of the Year in 2016 so it is one of the best robot kits on the market today — a great head start for learning robotics, programming, and artificial intelligence.
If the idea of owning your very own personal house robot fascinates you, you can’t go wrong with this purchase. It’s solidly built, ideal for beginners, and won’t cost you a small fortune.
Makeblock Educational Starter Kit
The Makeblock Educational Starter Kit is offers what every beginner should learn about robotics, Arduino, and Scratch programming. Scratch is a programming language which teaches the user about programming and coding which controls the robot’s movements and sensors.
It’s easy-to-follow instructions make learning robotics and programming less intimidating. This unit also comes in three versions: No Electronic, Bluetooth, and Infrared. Experienced users will also find enjoyment in this robot kit.
mBot ditches the default offline scratch editor in favor of a customized version of the environment. Why modify? Good question. You see, by revising the editor, the manufacturers let the users make use of the extensive Scratch feature set instead of simple robotic commands.
In addition to this environment, it also makes use of Arduino coding – an environment better fit for prototyping. The modified Scratch environment is an ideal match for children and the Arduino environment, for adults.
Although it doesn’t come with a remote controller, it is just easily controlled by the smartphone app. But some of my readers might prefer to control their bot without linking it to their phone or tablet. If that’s the case, you can add the remote as an extra.
It recognizes sounds. Well at least some of them, since it responds to almost thirty voice command presets.
Keeping the Makeblock train going, we have the Makeblock Ultimate – a kit meant to enable its users to build and program their very own robots from scratch. But before we review this kit, I’d like to give a short explanation of what Makeblock is. At its core, Makeblock is an environment geared towards constructing physical components – both electronic and mechanical, which then become part of the robot’s hardware.
But this hardware wouldn’t amount to anything more than a glorified paperweight without the right software environment, which in this kit, is provided by Arduino. So you’re looking at a synergy between Makeblock and Arduino.
If you’re not well-versed in the ABC’s of programming, its GUI (graphical user interface) can help you out. Where a GUI stands out is in its ability to display results of the programming in real-time, so you can tweak and tinker to your heart’s content without an overwhelming amount of effort.
The Ultimate can take multiple forms thanks to the toolbox it comes with, and the mechanical components which can be integrated with LEGO components. Controlling the Ultimate is also a breeze, thanks to its Bluetooth feature, which allows it to connect to devices running Android or IOS.
For those of you looking to get an introduction to the fascinating world of of robotics, your search ends with this robot from WowWe. And unlike most domestic bots, this uniquely built bot is a true assistant. Not only will it do a particular set of chores, but it’s also a go-to bot for your entertainment needs, owing to its several game modes.
In addition to the smartphone app, it also responds to hand gestures, which makes for better navigation and gaming. And it doesn’t just end there either, this little guy also reacts to sounds in ambient surroundings. Pretty neat.
If working with pre-designed and pre-built robots isn’t your cup of tea, this kit might be the right fit for you since demands a little elbow grease. You’ll be building a crab robot out of this kit, and in the meantime, the subject will help you learn the brass tacks of robotics.
But that doesn’t mean assembling it would be a challenge. In fact, if you consult and follow the manual correctly, its assembly should be a walk in the park since you won’t be needing prior experience or access to special tools.
It runs on a AAA battery and can plot its course in relation to its environment, and in doing so, can alter it when it encounters an obstacle. Avoiding obstacles alone is hardly impressive, but set it on a tabletop and watch it perform some exciting aerobatics. Good stuff!
If you’ve read this far, you can probably tell that there’s no one-size-fits-all robot kit. Which robot kit will be the best pick for you, is largely a matter of your age, preferences, and skill level. A good case in point would be customers who demand more for their robot than a few voice presets and rudimentary mobility.
And lastly, you’d need to ensure that the kits you short-list are not just in line with your age, skill level, and likings, but also with your budget. This section is aimed at providing you with some insight as to what needs to be taken into consideration before you take the plunge.
It may sound like a no-brainer but you will need some sort of power source to run your robot. It can either be built-in or removable. The removable part is fairly straightforward – you insert the batteries and replace them for fresh ones when you run out.
As for the built-in lithium-ion batteries, they are far superior to removable AAA batteries. They allow for more compact builds, and they can be recharged with either solar power or your average USB cable.
The interaction with your bot can be as simple as a change of lights or as complicated as understanding of preset voice commands, and learning and adapting to new ones using AI. Most kid-friendly bots have limited functionality, and lean towards the educational side.
As for the ones aimed at adults, they can be programmed to respond to certain sounds, words, and phrases. If you’d want more oomph out of your bot, you can also program it to learn new behaviors and adapt to changing environmental conditions.
The ease-of-assembly mostly comes down to a matter of personal preference. For instance, some of the picks in our roundup work right out of the box, while others require some level of assembling. You’ll also have to consider if the kit requires some special equipment or tools for construction.
If you go with an advanced kit, you’ll need some knowledge of soldering and programming, not to mention work hard for hours, perhaps even days. But if you’re not that tech-savvy or not that patient, most beginner-friendly models shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to be put together.
Which brings us to our next point…
Your skill level is the one factor you can’t overlook when shopping for your next robot kit. Why? Because manufacturers keep their target user’s skill level in mind when designing these kits.
Beginner or starter-level kits are aimed at kids in robotics clubs or middle-schoolers in general, so that they can be made part of their curriculum. It helps impart and cultivate problem-solving skills and funnels their creative drive.
Intermediate kits can prove central in educating STEM students, but they’re also a good fit for hobbyists and enthusiasts. If you’re just starting out, these intermediate level kits will be useful in teaching yourself the first principles of robotics. What better way to learn about robotics than building a robot with your own hands?
Finally, we have advanced programmable robot kits which aren’t too different from the hardware used commercially or in real-life applications. They’re meant to give you a practical understanding of what goes on when building pro-grade robots. Think advanced robots with AI or UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) for personal use. These machines can be controlled manually but they can also run on their own.
Now to wrap up this post, programmable robot building kits can be best thought of as gateways to robotics, programming, and even AI. They give you some real-life hands-on experience which reading alone can’t. And it’s not just about the learning experience either. A robot designed for your personal use can make humdrum chores easier.
And as opposed to the popular opinion, they aren’t just meant for children. Programmable robot kits, especially advanced robot kits are specifically designed with adults in mind.
In this rundown, I included some of the best advanced and intermediate kits you’ll find in the market today. Most of them are budget-friendly, so no matter which picks make it to your shortlist, it won’t break the bank. The buying guide should come in handy if you fancy none of the entries in the list, or if you’re a first-time buyer.
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