It’s important to get your child involved with robotics and engineering from an early age. Why? We live in a world that increasingly depends on electronics, and the Maker Generation demands to be hands-on with practically every gadget.
Introducing a kid to robotics can open a world of possibilities, as well build confidence. Plus, encouraging your child to explore the world of robotics for themselves is an amazing way to foster self-discovery.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best-selling kits and discover what makes them great:
LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 31313 – Starter Set ($349.99)
Coolest Feature: Control your robot from an iPad, iPhone or other smart device using Bluetooth and LEGO’s free app.
What’s In the Box: A basic programming Intelligent EV3 Brick (Think of it as a mini-computer, a robot brain) that features an ARM9 processor. Three interactive servo motors, a remote control, redesigned color, touch & infrared sensors, plus 550+ LEGO Technic parts make customization a breeze.
What It Can Do: Roll, crawl, slither or walk, the Intelligent EV3 Brick can be programmed to make a number of different styles of robots, all built from the same set. You can even control your robot from your smart-device, utilizing the Bluetooth setting.
The set also includes a USB port and Wi-Fi connectivity, Micro SD card reader, back-lit buttons, 4 motor ports and instructions on building a impressive robot.
Using LEGO’s Robot Commander app, you can control any robot from an iOS or Android device. (Image: LEGO)
Why It’s Great for Kids: Many different sensors give builders almost limitless options, so that “new toy” feeling never wears off. Plus, the set will grow (literally) with your child. With 550+ LEGO Technic parts to choose from in the box, the actual structural design of the robot is limited only by your child’s imagination (and the weight of the parts on EV3’s servos).
LEGO has made the programming language open source, so there are tons of online resources to help both kids and parents build some pretty amazing creations. Plus, what kid doesn’t love LEGOs?
Arduino Starter Kit ($84.53)
Coolest Feature: There are more than 150,000 possible circuit combinations in the Base Kit alone.
What’s In the Box: More than 200+ electrical parts and components. These include a breadboard and holder, DC Motor, jumper wires, LEDs, relay, small servo, and much, much more. There’s also a 170-page Arduino Project Book, full of designs and ideas to help your child build their ultimate starter bot.
What It Can Do: Fifteen different projects can be built using the components listed above. Build a musical keyboard, touch-lamp, digital hourglass or even a zoetrope!
Why It’s Great for Kids: The Arduino kit is very hands-on. Kids learn electrical engineering by doing. Arduino also takes the builder one step deeper into the world of programming, allowing them to see how circuits, code and the user are all related.
littleBits Electronics Base Kit ($99)
Coolest Feature: Super kid-friendly magnets snap circuits together, so there’s no soldering.
What’s In the Box: Ten modules, including a buzzer, DC motor, dimmer, light sensor and more. An instruction book with 8 projects and hundreds more online.
What It Can Do: littleBits allow users to get a feel for the gadgetry of robotics without the higher-concept program learning that’s required for the LEGO and Arduino kits. Instead, the Bits snap together with magnets. Oh, and they work with every other littleBits module and kit, so you can build upon your initial investment!
Why It’s Great for Kids: Understanding what are littleBits and how they work will tell you why this set is perfect for youngsters. littleBits allow users to discover how circuits and electronics work while building light, sound, sensing and other modules…and all without wiring, soldering or programming.
Hands-on Experience Building Robots
So you’ve found a great robot kit for your child, but you’re not entirely comfortable showing your kids how to use it? No problem: DMA offers hands-on experience building robots in robot camps at almost every location.
DMA uses the LEGO EV3 in several robotics courses, like Robotics & Programming With LEGO® EV3. Our teen campers have made some pretty amazing creations, like bots designed to travel through obstacle courses or even face each other in robot battles!
Or try DMA courses like Electronics Engineering With Arduino™. DMA uses this hands-on technology at more than a dozen nationwide locations this year. In this course, our Adventures campers build, hack and repurpose a bunch of different electronics.
For the littleBits style of barebones engineering, check out DMA courses like Jr. Adventures In Machines And Engineering, where Jr. Adventurers age 6 to 8 can build simple machines while learning the basic concepts of engineering!