With robotics clubs flourishing as extracurricular activities in schools, a fantastic variety of high-school focused robotics kits have become available. These kits provide all the hardware needed to get started. Good kits come with dozens, or even hundreds, of mechanical and structural pieces to support the building of multiple robot configurations, and they include remote controllers and programmable onboard microprocessors.
Detailed instructions are provided to get teams started building some of the basic designs and to enable them to envision and design their own robots. Servo motors and all required cables and wireless transmitters and receivers are in the kits, along with references to additional online educational information.
Sensors may be part of the kit, capable of providing information about the environment to the robot for decision-making, and lights and speakers are also available in many kits – these are very popular among high school students for customizing their designs and operations.
What’s Included In Smaller Robots Kits:
The smaller, less-expensive kits (at roughly a couple of hundred dollars) may provide a single motor and a single basic configuration, along with three or four wheels.
…And What’s in Larger Kits:
Larger kits (running several hundred dollars each) include enough structural beams, plates, shafts, wheels, tracks, servo motors, belts, pulleys, connectors, etc. to enable greatly varied creations, with conveyors, multiple drive wheels, lifting arms, grabbing claws, and more all possible.
Gears provide power transmission capability and speed and torque trade-off options, along with great physics and mathematics learning opportunities (and teens love speed). Some kits provide electronic configuration opportunities, with a breadboard circuit, connecting jumper wires, resistors, capacitors, and LEDs. Some kits include ultrasonic range finder sensors, gyroscopic rotational sensors, touch sensors, photocell light sensors, and color sensors.
The Coding Languages That Come in These Kits:
The nature and logic of programming is a critically important part of learning robotics, and different kits feature different programming languages, including Parallax Basic, Java, Arduino, VEXcode, Lego EV3-G, and RobotC.
Apps and Programs You Can Use
Some are programmed on computers, some on Android phones. Parallax Basic, as the name implies, is used to operate Parallax robots using a version of Basic. RobotC is a C-based programming language tailored to controlling robots, and is used on multiple brands. RobotC comes in an especially intuitive graphical format( which is ideal for first-time programming). Why? Because commands are selected from a menu and are thus less prone to syntax and formatting errors.
Wheeled robots are the standard robot form at most tournament events, and are normally considered easier to engineer, build, and program (although humanoid/bipedal, flying drone, and stationary crane-like ‘bots are also available). When deciding which robotics kit is right for your program, your desired programming language and your preferred sensor input package will affect your decision, as will your budget. In budgetary considerations, consider how many kits you will buy – up to one for every two students. The kit components are durable, so this is a multi-year investment. Before discussing specific individual kits in more detail, I’ll propose two additional criteria to consider: Competition; and Education Resources. plexus promo code
So you want your robotics club to enter challenges and competitions outside your own institution? You’ll want to explore other local (and potentially more distant) high school robotics events before committing significant resources toward a specific kit.
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) runs regional, national, and international robotics tournaments. The FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) event uses parts from largely generic kits that are designed to provide affordable learning experiences.
VEX Robotics also holds regional, national, and international VEX Robotics Competition events on an annual schedule, using the VEX EDR kits as the authorized challenge robot platform for high school teens.
Although many of the individual robotics kit manufacturers have good curriculum recommendations and robotics instructions, I have found no better overall source of multi-brand robotics educational information than that provided by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). If you choose a kit for which CMU has a module on their Robotics Academy website, you can register for a free account and have, at your fingertips, tutorials, videos, explanations, and programming command libraries. Curriculum specifically addressing the Parallax ShieldBot (Arduino language), VEX EDR (in C++ and in RobotC), VEX IQ (in RobotC Graphical), and Lego Mindstorm (in Lego’s EV3-G language) are available and are a fantastic source for coaches and teams, at cs2n.org/curriculum.
Individual kits I recommend considering, starting at the entry-level end: The Parallax Boe-Bot. This kit features – even mandates – electronic circuit board configuration and programming. Your Boe-Bot won’t make a move until you build the links to the motor(s) on the circuit board and write the program to make it do so (there is no remote controller). The Parallax ShieldBot is another worthy option, with CMU’s online resources at your disposal. The Lego Mindstorm kit is supported by CMU, is highly configurable, and has competition options. VEX Robotics provides two strong candidates – VEX IQ on the junior high end, and VEX EDR a step beyond. Also, VEX IQ features the RobotC Graphical interface. VEX EDR can be operated by multiple more advanced languages. Both of these VEX Robotics kits are deployable through widespread tournament competition events, both feature lots of sensors, and both are supported by the CMU Robotics Academy tools. All of the above kits are available from multiple sources, including the manufacturers’ own distribution networks, Amazon, and robotshop.com. My final kit recommendation is a FIRST Tech Challenge kit available from servocity.com. Any of these kits may be ideal based on your unique criteria. Move forward!