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The best robotics kits for beginners

The best robotics kits for beginners
From Engadget - December 15, 2017

Who should get this

A robotics kit should be of interest to any parent who wishes to encourage a child's interest in the STEM fields. Schools often turn to kits to teach physics or math concepts, but at home they can also serve as a creative outlet and source of fun. We think the best beginner robotics kits challenge you to build the robot in a creative, open-ended way using hundreds of pieces. You will then program it on your mobile device or computer to walk, talk, and play games.

How we picked and tested

To choose which beginner robotics kits to test, we scoured websites like Amazon for reviews and considered existing guides from publications such as Tom's Guide and Make. We also consulted three experts on the most important functions to look for in an introductory robotics kit. We eventually settled on seven kits to test, based on these criteria:

For each kit, we began by following the included instructions to build one of the suggested models. We timed the process, noting any difficulties we encountered and how much fun we had. Then, we downloaded the required app or desktop software, and went through the steps to build a basic program. We considered the difficulty level of each coding language, and if it would satisfy builders both young and old.

Our pick: Lego Boost

The Lego Boost robotics kit offers the best overall experience for those with no programming experience. The 847-piece kit is made from Lego pieces, making it the most fun and the easiest to build among kits of its size, thanks to Lego's familiarity and versatility. And the fact that any Lego block can be used in a project creates a massive opportunity for expansion right out of the box.

The instructions for building and programming the robot are provided via a simple tablet app that even nonreaders can follow. Its programmable sensors can detect movement, distance, and color. However, the Lego Boost app is tablet-only, so it wo not work with a smartphone.

Making an easy-to-use robot comes at a price. Lego Boost is one of the most expensive kits we tested, but it's also the most expansive for building right out of the boxespecially if you have other Lego kits at home.

Runner-up: Jimu AstroBot

If the Lego Boost kit is unavailable, we recommend the Jimu AstroBot kit. It's a smaller kit that comes with three suggested builds, two fewer than the Boost, and its sensor is less sophisticatedit can detect objects, but not color or movement like Boost's. It also costs more, and because it is not Lego, it does not offer the same amount of expansion possibilities. AstroBot is just as simple to put together and program as the Boost, but it also includes hands that can grip objects and eyes that can be programmed to show different colors and patterns. It's also one of the cutest robots we built.

Budget pick: Robotis Ollobot Play 700

Upgrade pick: Vex IQ Super Kit

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