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Ask HN: Looking for robot toys/kits for young ones
23 points by louise02 on Oct 8, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 16 comments
hi, I'm looking for an educational toy for my 11 year old boy and 8 year old girl. They both like coding and have had a go at electronics at some of the maker events we've been to. They both go crackers seeing things spin and lights flash in response to their Scratch and Python programmes, I think I might have a couple of little control freaks in the making - lol.

I've had a look around for programmable robot kits in shops and online and I'm overwhelmed by the choice and levels of complexity.

Is there something anyone can suggest I have a look please?

thanks Lou

Lego Mindstorms EV3 would be a good start.

Also checkout First Lego League. http://www.firstlegoleague.org/

It's a great program. This is my Son's third year and our second year coaching his team.

The season is in full swing right now so you could probably go observe (possibly join) a local team. And find out when their competition is and go watch.

Here's a video of what they could create. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJSeMeAGmXE

The FLL program consists of core values, a project and the robot game. Robot game is the most fun but they have a good time coming up with a project idea and learning about core values (work as a team, do the work, etc).

If you want to start your own team you can get donations/sponsorship from companies to pay for your startup costs. 2 or 3 robot kits, some extra parts, T-shirts, the FLL kit (mat and mission pieces), supplies to build the board, FLL fees, etc.

We have a system called Flotilla which will be available before Christmas. It's a set of smart electronics modules that talk to a Raspberry Pi and can be controlled via Python code (or through our web-based interfaces for beginners).

Sounds like exactly what you're looking for!


I really like the scripting interface you've got set up. It looks friendly, easy, and effective.

The Edison Robot: http://meetedison.com/ was a successful KS project last year. I got a pair, and haven't played with them too much but they seem to work well. They've got a nice visual programming environment, and are compatible with Lego. And decently priced.

I have heard about Little Bits from advertising on twit, and it looks like what you are describing: http://littlebits.cc/

If you want to give twit credit, you can go through the link here: https://twit.tv/sponsors

Lego Mindstorms are excellent. I haven't tried their more recent stuff, but it looks very good. Combining the ease of design and assembly of Legos with robotics... I spent hours building, rebuilding, and programming my set. Could not recommend anything more.

I agree, Mindstorms are really good. If they're not that used to programming yet they can start off using the graphical programming language (NXT-G). Then, when they're ready to really dig in, they can start using C.

Sad that this https://vimeo.com/130435350 didn't go forward

I literally spent all day answering parents questions just like this at the Seattle Robothon event www.robothon.org . With a stated interest in coding and electronics I would probably suggest the Parallax Boe-Bot approx $159, there is some mechanical assembly (screwdriver/pliers) but it has good coverage of electronics without soldering. Great step by step directions are available. A few other great starter robots: Pololu 3Pi ($110) for a focus on embedded C Programming, no electronics or mechanical skills required. For the home school types I suggest the Vex IQ - Superkit ($350) or Vex EDR Clawbot ($530), these kits include Classroom style documentation with Teachers guides. As you noted there are lots of options and these are just opinions, although these picks were easily agreed on by the key members of our committee, most of which had hands on building experience with these robots (including Lego Mindstorms $350).

Check out RiQ from PCS Edventures. http://riq.edventureslab.com/

Their brain box is designed to integrate (snap) with most of the major construction toys: Lego, Fischertechnik, K'NeX, Erector, Minds-i... This opens up the possibilities quite a bit. They also offer a bunch of great robotics curriculum that integrates with their product.

Disclaimer: I work for the company that developed the visual programming app that allows kids to program their robots via tablet or computer. We partnered with PCS on this product. I'm proud to say it's a pretty slick system.

I have a Lynxmotion AL5D that I built but haven't used:


Saw something on reddit btw - They are on Kickstarter. Looks interesting - toy looks like fun, who dont like slot cars :-) teaches robotics, design and 3Dprinting along with programming. https://www.reddit.com/r/kickstarter/comments/3o0pc2/created...

ComputerCraft is a minecraft mod that adds Lua powered computers and robots to minecraft. I've made tree harvesting bots, farming bots, mining boys, and remote robot control PDAs. When I started working with embedded systems, I was impressed how much carried over.

Most kids like minecraft. With ComputerCraft a little bit of coding gives you minecraft superpowers. More coding gives you more powers. It's easy to keep learning more.

It's not cheap, but I really love what Makeblock is doing:


Snap Circuits are great.

Home Depot carries a ton of electronics stuff (complex enough for a 10 year old) in their hardware section. I didn't find out until recently - they sell erector set parts, bulbs, wires, battery chassis, etc.

Lou, Im not sure about Mindstorms. Damn expensive and my boy lost interest after sometime. He claims it to be "slow and clunky and not fun".

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