Best Robots for Teens

By Phill Powell

The technology toy market has exploded as robots have evolved from the hobby world into the mainstream. And today’s models aren’t just project and build kits, they can also teach teens valuable programming skills.

Sparki

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Sparki comes with Arduino software that can be loaded. It also has a USB port for uploading programs.

Price: $149.99
Best for: Ages 12-15
Who Makes It: ArcBotics
What Makes it Awesome: Sparki robots are ready to use out of the box with the included remote control. Sparkis can avoid ledges, follow lines, solve mazes, avoid walls, navigate rooms, retrieve objects, follow or hide from light sources, draw shapes (using a marker holder) and play various games.

Using Sparki, teens get familiar with important robotic concepts, such as PID Loops, pathfinding algorithms, signal filtering and heuristics. Plus, the bot is Arduino-ready.

Coolest Features: A Bluetooth module and variety of onboard sensors that light up. Precise stepper motors. Plus, Sparki has a motorized gripper and a USB port (for uploading your own command programs).

Moss Zombonitron 1600

MOSS-ZOMBONITRON-1600
In addition to the MOSS Zombonitron robot, Modular Robotics also sells a massive deluxe kit called the Exofabulatronixx 5200 ($599.95).

Price: $199.95
Best for: Ages 8+
Who Makes It: Modular Robotics
What Makes it Awesome: MOSS Zombonitron robots are made up of 16 MOSS blocks, along with 56 carbon steel spheres. The blocks are magnetized and that attraction between the magnets and the carbon steel spheres is the force that holds the assembled robot’s different pieces together.

The Zombonitron robot gets its power from a rechargeable LiPo battery that can be juiced through an included Micro-USB cable. This MOSS kit also includes a light sensor, a proximity sensor (for navigation purposes), two motors, a charging cable and various connection pieces and support braces.

Coolest Feature: The magnetic-construction system is very future-forward. Comes with Brain Block, which lets you use the robot with an iOS or Android-based controller.

Parallax Boe-Bot

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The Parallax Boe-Bot is an approved platform for the Boy Scouts of America Robotics Merit Badge.

Price: $159.99
Best for: Ages 13+
Who Makes It: Parallax, Inc.
What Makes it Awesome: Boe-Bot robots can be assembled within a couple of hours. You can build a rolling robot and drive it with simple motion programs. The bot can also be programmed to navigate corners, detect and avoid obstacles, plus other cool stunts. Each project (included with the bot) features a new challenge – like wiring and source-code modding. Expect to put in about 50 hours to complete all the Boe-Bot projects.

Coolest Feature: Open platform leads to more creativity. No soldering is required. Has touch, light and infrared sensors. Plus, additional sensors and hardware expansion kits are available. Once you have mastered the basics, you can teach the Boe-Bot robot new tricks with a wide variety of accessory kits.

MINDSTORMS EV3

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Teens get lots of build options with the LEGO Mindstorms EV3 – including a walking robot elephant and T-rex.

Price: $349.95
Best for: Ages 10+
Who Makes It: LEGO
What Makes it Awesome: LEGO EV3 robot kits are the latest evolution of LEGO’s popular Mindstorms kits, which have dominated the home robot market. 601 unique robot pieces are included in the EV3 kit and since LEGO’s robotics programming code is open source, there are lots of great projects coming online from other users all the time.

The brain of the robot is an intelligent EV3 Brick (running a powerful ARM9 processor). It has a Wi-Fi USB port, Internet connectivity, a Micro SD card reader and back-lit buttons. The system has four motor ports and three interactive servo motors.

For anyone interested in getting to make LEGO EV3 robots, this system is going to be a big hit. Kit comes with building instructions for one robot, with building instructions for four more robots available online.

Coolest Feature: You can control your EV3 root via the infrared sensor system, or download the free app and use your smart device to run your robot.

14 in 1 Educational Solar Robot

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Does more tricks than a circus pony: the incredible 14 in 1 Educational Solar Robot.

Price: $31.95
Best for: Ages 10+
Who Makes It: OWI Inc.
What Makes it Awesome: 14 in 1 solar robot is a kit that can make 14 distinctive robots, at the low price of $31.95 for the set. (That works out to about $2.28 per robot.)

This amazingly affordable robot can become a tail-wagging dog, a running beetle, a surfer and even a zombie. Accessories are included so the robot can move on land and water! Additional features let you change direction of the motor rotation by adjusting the polarity on the solar panel. Plus, the whole thing’s solar-powered, which gives its user a positive view of energy conservation.

Coolest Feature: Everyone will love the retractable robot head, which can be installed in various positions on the gearbox, or conveniently stored away in the robot’s upper body.

Build Your Future
Summertime is full of new possibilities. This summer, teens everywhere are making it worth remembering by attending one of the Digital Media Academy robotics camps, where teen robot builders go wild using LEGO’s MINDSTORMS EV3 and Arduino robot-building kits.

Today’s robot kits offers so many possible projects, it’s hard to know where to start. That’s where DMA’s expert instruction comes in handy, guiding students and helping them learn and create, at the same time! Plus, DMA makes sure that each student gets to use a full robotics kit…with no sharing of parts!