What do you buy for someone aspiring to become a robotics engineer? You could go all out and hit them with all the parts and software they might need to develop their own advanced robotics projects from scratch, but what about someone who is a bit young or inexperienced?
It might be argued that the best way to get someone started is to take advantage of some of the robotics products already on the market that empower just about anyone to build and design their own robotic creations.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the more interesting kits that make getting started just a little easier.
Arduino is an incredibly versatile open-source platform. You can create a wide range of things using boards made for Arduino projects, including robots.
This might be a bit on the complex side for a first-time robot builder, but there are plenty of kits out there that work very well with Arduino boards. In fact, there’s an entire book on the subject of building Arduino-powered robots.
With this particular platform, the sky is the limit.
Raspberry Pi made headlines when it became perhaps the cheapest all-in-one computer solution at just $25-35. All you have to do is plug it in, load a low-demand Linux distro on it, and start computing.
While it isn’t exactly intended for use in robotics, it can and has become a popular solution for hobbyist robotics engineers who wish to extend the functionality of existing designs or build something entirely new off the inexpensive platform. The folks at Raspberri Pi have acknowledged this growing trend and dedicated a category of posts to the use of Raspberri Pi boards in robotics.
If you ever thought about building a seriously cheap robot without having to resort to using off-the-shelf kits, this might be an excellent option for you.
LEGO Mindstorms NXT
Few robotics kits out there are as versatile and easy to get into as LEGO Mindstorms NXT. This kit, coming in at around $450, is certainly no impulse buy. The lessons you can learn from building and designing robots using Mindstorms makes it a great value for young folks and adults alike interested in learning a little more about robotics.
It’s a Bluetooth-ready kit that empowers you to design robots to do the simple things that much more expensive kits have problems doing. You get several different robots in a single kit as well, with transitions between one form to another being a matter of disconnecting and rearranging the pieces.
Revell Vexplorer Robotics System
With 300 parts, on-board video with a 150′ foot range, and an endless number of potential configurations, the Revell Vexplorer Robotics System is perhaps one of the best robotics kits out there. Recommended for users 14 or older, this is no simple toy. Vexplorer is a fully functional robotics system that enables you to grab and move objects or spy on your dog.
This system certainly isn’t cheap, but it is a great way to get a real look at what it takes to build a fully-functioning robot. After a while with this system, you’ll be ready to build your battle bot from scratch. Just don’t hook it up to Skynet.
Image: LEGO Mindstorms NXT