Top 20 DIY Robot Kits available right now
Whether you’re an advanced programmer or a complete beginner looking to get into robotics, there are a number of brilliant kits to help get you started. From mini high-speed sumo wrestling robots and Arduino robot kits programmable in C++ to Lego robots and recycled tin can robots there are many kits available.
Before you dive into the overwhelming number of different robot kits available online you first need to decide what you want; ask yourself a couple of questions:
- Do you want to build the robot and learn more about electronics? Or just learn more about robotics and programming?
- What is your current programming knowledge? Do you have experience with Arduino, C++, Raspberry Pi’s or Python?
- What experience do you have? Have you used kits like this before? Or will this be your first dive into robotics
As there as so many different kits targeted at different people with different budgets, we’re going to going to separate the robots into the top 10 Arduino robot kits and the top 10 starter robots. If you’ve got a little bit of knowledge with Arduino and programming in C++ start here, otherwise read on to find out the best starter robots.
Starter Robot Kits:
If this is your first time programming your own robot or you just want to investigate something apart from Arduino robot kits, you’re in the right place. There several starter and STEM robotics kits available varying from Lego Mindstorms and Meccano Spiders to Micro Bit powered buggy’s that can be programmed in Python.
1. Makeblock Ultimate 2.0 10-in-1 Robot Kit
Ultimate 2.0 is Makeblocks most advanced robot kit. With 10 different forms varying from a robotic arm tank to a self-balancing robot, the Ultimate will meet all your needs for different applications. With the option to program in a graphical editor, which has a user experience similar to Scratch, or program the robot using Arduino or Python the kit is suitable for all levels of ability.
2. Robo Bit Buggy
Since its release in 2015, the BBC Micro:bit has become an increasingly popular microcontroller. After every pupil in year 7 (or equivalent) was given one in 2016 its popularity skyrocketed. Programmable in MicroPython and with Python being added to the syllabus in school across the country the Micro:bit is one of the easiest board to get to grips with.
4tronix have released a buggy that allows you to take your Micro:bit, and Python development skills, to the next level. Equipped with line following sensors, ultrasonic distance sensors, 8 element LED bar and even an integrated pen holder you can program this robot to do a huge variety of things.
With an interesting but simple design, the Robot Bit Buggy helps engage students and get them writing code for their robot as soon as possible.
From only £32, the Robo Bit Buggy is one of the most affordable robots on our list
3. Lego Boost Robot
The Lego Boost is probably the best STEM robot available for kids and younger children. The Lego robot comes with an incredible 847 Lego bricks, one motor a light/IR sensor, and the Lego move hub which has two built-in motors. The robot can be built in 5 different forms, to get started all you need to do is install the Boost app on your iPad or Android tablet and you can start building and coding straight away.
Lego has created the boost app to try and encourage young children to learn and has created an app that strikes the perfect balance between simplicity, depth and fun. With a video game type levelling system, the app turns the entire learning process into a game.
The only disadvantage with the Boost is its simplicity, while this is perfect for younger children this can become too easy for older children, so the robot is targeted specifically at children aged 7 to 12.
4. Lego Mindstorms EV3 Robot Kit
Lego Mindstorms EV3 takes the Lego Boost to the next level, with an age target of 10+ Mindstorms has its own processing unit on board, has a more complex, more powerful coding language and is based on the Technic brick platform.
Equipped with an IR sensor, a colour sensor, touch sensor and three motors EV3 has 17 different forms, and even once you’ve finished building it, you’re not finished. There is a huge variety of things you can do while programming your robot.
While it’s straightforward to build and a great introduction to programming the biggest downside is it’s expensive, you’ll find the robot on Amazon for around £300
5. Sunfounder Robot Raspberry PiCar-S Kit
The Raspberry Pi is effectively a small, affordable computer and has become extremely popular in the robotics and maker scenes, because of its huge popularity there is a large pool of information, code and support available online, this makes it a perfect starting point to learn the basics of robotics.
With the Sunfounder PiCar you can program your robot in Python or use their snap-based graphical program editor. With an ultrasonic distance sensor, light sensor and line sensor you can program the car to do things such as line following, obstacle avoidance and light following.
6. Cozmo Robot
Although tiny Cozmo is a robot with a big brain and an even bigger personality. Cozmo can play games, explore his environment, be controlled remotely and more. With a beginner-friendly interface, Cozmo is a great educational robot for kids and adults to learn to code creatively.
Cozmo comes provided with three power cubes which it can use to play different games and activities, when connected to your phone or tablet Cozmo becomes even more intelligent as it can use your devices processing power to unlock its full potential.
7. 4M Tabletop Robot Crab Kit
Although it’s not programmable the 4M tabletop robot is a hands-on science kit that teaches the basics of robotics by constructing a working robot crab. When it’s activated the crab scuttles and automatically changes direction when it encounters an obstacle.
8. Meccano Meccaspider Robot Kit
If the 4M robot crab was a little basic for you the Meccano Meccaspider is sure to catch your attention. Substantially larger than the tabletop robot the Meccaspider comes with 291 parts and is more complex to build. Controlled by the buttons on the top of the robot or via the Meccano educational app the robot has a lot of functionality. Included by default are 7 different play modes and a Venom attack game to play.
9. Thymio Robot
With no assembly required for this robot, Thymio is designed to get students interested in STEM subjects. Ready to use out of the box its 6 basic behaviours allow you to discover how it interacts with its environment. With both a graphical, block-based programming interface or with real code Tymio makes it easy to start at any level.
Tymio comes pre-installed with Scratch so you can program the robot in an interface you already know and understand. Scratch has become one of the major graphical programming interfaces over the last decade and is being released to more and more robots.
10. 4M Tin Can Robot Kit
Turn a metal can into a walking wobbling robot, millions of metal cans are thrown away every day, this robot encourages recycling and learning at the same time, the kit includes 4 body rings, legs, robot straw arms and a motor for movement.The only thing you need is a tin can! This robot is one of the best robots for kids as its very beginner friendly, a perfect introduction to robotics
Arduino Robot Kits:
Arduino is one of the largest open source platforms in the world, subsequently, there is a huge amount of information available and a large number of different options when it comes to looking at the available kits. Arduino robots are generally programmable in C++, which is not as friendly as other languages such as Python, but a number of the kits are also programmable through block-based, user-friendly interfaces.
1. Elegoo Uno Robot Car Kit
The Elegoo Uno robot car is one of the most popular robot kits on Amazon, this is because you get a huge number of components for your money. The kit comes with an Arduino, expansion shield, 4 motors, a servo, Ultrasonic sensors, Line following sensors and more. Clear assembly instructions are included along with several prebuilt applications such as obstacle avoidance and line following. The robot is only programmable directly through the Arduino interface, so it forces you to get to grips with Arduino and C++ much faster than the starter robots listed above however the example code is a great starting point.
2. Pololu Zumo Robot
Have you ever seen robot wars? Well, why not create your own Arduino powered mini robot wars. With Pololu’s Zumo Robot you can do just that. The robot comes ready to go out of the box so no assembly is required, this allows them to make the robots much higher wearing so they can withstand collisions at full speed.
Another robot that is only programmable in Arduino however the default code can get your robots battling straight out of the box, from there you can use your intelligence and creativity to change how the robots battle and see if you can create the champion.
3. Otto DIY Robot
The cheapest introduction to Arduino on our list, Otto is cute and playful. Otto is completely open source, so you don’t have to buy the robot directly from them, you can buy the parts and even 3D-print the body. Otto only requires four micro servos, an Arduino Nano, an ultrasound sensor, buzzer battery pack and a few wires.
As the robot is completely open source its easy to upgrade and there is plenty of information available online to help upgrade your robot, from additional arms to a LED controllable mouth, the possibilities are endless.
4. OpenCat Robot
OpenCat is another completely open source option available, powered by an Arduino Pro Mini and off the shelf components, OpenCat is a budget introduction to impressive walking robots. Most robot quadrupeds take up a shape like a spider as it makes the robot easier to balance however OpenCat is one of the only animal-like walking robots at this price point. While Boston dynamics have created some extremely impressive robots such as big dog, Open cat tries to replicate most of the motion capabilities without the extreme cost.
5. Sunfounder Crawling Quadruped Robot Kit
Sunfounder has also released an impressive walking quadruped robot however theirs is much easier to build and program. Taking up a traditional robotic quadruped form allows for more balance and more stable walking gates. This means the robot is less likely to fall over and you should be able to create code easier and faster.
6. DFRobotShop Rover v2 Robot Tank Kit
If you’re not interested in robot cars or walking robots how about a robot tank? Rover v2 is affordable and simple to program robot tank. The Tank comes pre-assembled so you can immediately start programming your robot to do whatever you want.
7. Keyestudio 4DOF Robot Arm Kit
Keyestudio has released another budget robot that encourages people to learn while having fun. With detailed tutorials, open source code and 3 different control methods, including remote control, you can get your robot doing things without writing a single line of code. All the code is open source, this means that you can get, edit and add to the code that is already running on the robot to get your robot doing different and more interesting tasks.
8. Makeblock mbot v1.1
Makeblock’s mbot has been designed specifically for STEM use. With clear instructions and only a screwdriver, you will learn the basics of building your own robot and experience the joys of hands-on creation. With four expansion ports and support for over 100 different electronic modules, mbot is easily expandable. Mbot is also compatible with Lego bricks so you can easily and quickly expand or change the shape and appearance of the robot.
9. Elegoo Tumbller Self-Balancing Robot Kit
If you’ve built robot kits before and you’re looking for a bit more of a challenge take a look the Elegoo Tumbller. With only two wheels and a gyroscope your code always needs to ensure that your robot stays balanced. Built with Arduino the robot is easily expandable, however, you’ll need to make sure the robot can still balance so be careful!
10. Build your own Robot!
If you’ve used robotics kits before you should be familiar with the types of components and electronics required so why not build your own robot? Arduino components are relatively cheap to source however if you’ve built robotics kits before you can even reuse your existing parts.
As a starting point you’d be looking at the following components:
- Shield expansion board
- Motor Controller Board
- Motors or Servos
- Bread Board
- Sensors (Optional)
- Distance Sensor
- IR Sensor
- Robot Chassis (You can buy one or make your own)
Once you’ve decided what type of robot you’re going to make and sourced all your components you can start building your robot straight away. There are plenty of tutorials available online and plenty of example source code. The major disadvantage of building your own robot is when you get to writing the code, you’re going to have to do it completely from scratch. This is significantly harder than using a kit with pre-written code however you’ll learn much more throughout the process.