This article at The Wire Cutter made me think about some of our favourite robotics kit.
Running our workshops we come across some outstanding science and tech related toys. I'd like to tell you about a few of them. 'Tis the season after all!
1 Your first Robot - The CrumbleBot
New to coding? We use the CrumbleBot from 4Tronix at our workshops and they're a great piece of kit. Snappy to program using a visual, block-based language similar to Scratch the Crumblebot is equipped with plenty of sensors allowing it to follow lines on the floor, seek dark places and light up!
Pricier, cuter and programmable with a tablet. The Sphero is an exceptionally swish offering; no assembly and a wireless charging station make this a very elegant and impossibly fun robot. If you're not in the mood for coding you can put the tablet app in drive mode and simply use it as a remote controlled toy.
3 For more Advanced users - mBot
This is a bigger, more sturdy kit which runs wonderfully out of the box. The mBot comes pre-programmed with 3 modes: line following, remote control, or obstacle avoidance to give you an idea of its abilities. The mBot is controlled with an Arduino controller and to begin with a tablet-based app is the easiest way to get started with coding. For more advanced work block-based or text-based coding is possible but requires a laptop and USB cable.
Assembly is quick and easy and the tablet app make the beginning stages of coding easy. The jump to the desktop mBlock app introduces a slope to the learning curve but opens up seriously rich possibilities for somebody serious about programming. C is the language of choice for the Arduino platform.
We use the mBot for painting with robots, its such a sturdy robot it can hold a paintbrush no problem!
4 Electronics kit - Snap Circuits
These are a wonderfully neat way to learn about electronics. These components clip together using the poppers normally found on jackets, no fiddly wires.
The instructions are good too. Clear enough that children around 9 and above can be expected to follow them themselves. Without instructions this kit is still extremely fun to play about with which we think a key test for educational toys.