There aren’t many things more fun than programming a robot to do what you want. A programmable robot can capture a child’s imagination like nothing else can. By interacting with robots, kids learn programming and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) — without even realizing it. Although many programmable robots are for middle school and high school-aged kids, we pick the best programmable robots of all ages, even a 5-8 year old can find some to learn while playing.
Top Programmable Robots and Robot Kits
- Adorable bots with brains can be fun playmates as well as useful desk pets
- The bots arrive fully assembled. Use an iPad or Android tablet to access free apps that control them
- Dash & Dot interact with the world using sensors. They can hear sounds and detect objects
- Smart robots can actually teach kids ages 5+ to code as they play
- The easy-to-use drag-and-drop programming language, Blockly, provides a low floor but a high ceiling for coding
- Program Dash & Dot to do anything imaginable, from basic movements to following complex sequences and instructions
- Add-ons extend the fun: play a song, take videos, add LEGO® bricks and more.
- Recommended age: 5+.
- A programmable robot that fits in a pocket. Winner of “Best Robot” at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show & 2014 International Toy Fair.
- Sees colors, follows lines and detects intersections on shapes drawn on paper and digital screens, and changes commands based on color of the lines: spinning, speeding up or slowing down, and other tricks
- Can read and perform over 1,000 instructions. Works with apps including maze games, race tracks, and an executive decision-maker style novelty
- Coding Ozobot with Ozoblockly, an easy-to-use block-based programming language, enables kids to learn programming while playing
- Recommended age: 8+.
- Originally developed at MIT, the third incarnation of LEGO robotics comes with a full curriculum dedicated to teaching programming
- A kid can progressively learn about the various areas of robotics and build several kinds of robots
- Intuitive icon-based drag-and-drop programming interface and step-by-step instructions provide a fun learning experience for young kids
- Intelligent EV3 Brick, 3 interactive servo motors, remote control, color sensor, touch sensor, infrared sensor, and 550+ LEGO Technic elements
- Recommended age: 10+
- Take advantage of the versatile, modular, tool-less construction system to build and program robots
- Follow step-by-step instructions to learn the basics, and then use that knowledge to build anything you can imagine.
- Robot Brain with 12 self-configuring input/output ports, four smart motors, 750+ pieces, one color sensor, one bumper switch sensor, one touch LED sensor, built in rotational sensors on the motors, and video game style remote control
- Includes free VEX IQ curriculum
- Recommended age: 8+
Finally a Fun Way to Learn With a Programmable Robot!
It’s not always easy to get kids interested in programming, math, technology and sciences. Maybe that’s because we go about it the wrong way. Kids love hands-on practical experiences over abstract concepts. They love spending collaborative time with parents and friends. They love learning while having fun. Most of all, they love robots, even building and programming robots. On the other hand, in order for kids to transfer and apply the information and skills they learn in school, they must be able to use that knowledge in a way that is meaningful to them. By designing, building, and programming robots, kids use science, engineering, technology, and math skills in a collaborative hands-on project that reinforces their learning.
Robotics are in the headlines more and more these days. “It’s the 21st century’s newest must-study subject” as reported by Boston Globe titled “STEM’s newest darling: Robotics” . Programmable robots are getting into the core of STEM education. Many research institutions, such as USC Robotics Research Lab and Carnegie Melon’s Robotics Academy, generate great amount of K-12 robotics education materials and teaching tips. Tuft university’s KinderLab Robotics partially promotes robotics for younger kids.
The programming aspect of a robot is critical for a robot to perform well. As we cover in our robotics guide for beginners: “Robots all have some kind of computer code. It is like the brain and the core essence of a robot. The program determines how a robot decides when or how to do something. ” To become proficient with robotics, kids need to tackle a programmable robot. Thanks to visual programming interfaces targeting kids and increasingly accessible robotics programs, working with a programmable robot can be a lot of fun for a curious kid. Across the country, more and more robotics camps and after school programs are available for kids from kindergarten to grade 12. The robot building and programming activities in a robotics camp are typically facilitated through programmable robot kits. The most well-known ones are LEGO Mindstorms EV3 and VEX IQ.
Though many programmable robots and robot kits for kids are focused around middle school and high school-aged students, there are more now that target younger kids. For some, the idea of preschoolers learning to code may seem preposterous. But we think it makes perfect sense. Coding is very much like learning a new language. Without a doubt, early exposure can make a big difference. However, what we like most about coding is how it promotes breaking things down to problem solving. If your child is not ready to jump into coding though, there is no need to push. You can let him play coding games to prepare before taking on a programmable robot.