DIY robot kits for adults are all the rage now, and it’s not hard to see why. They are a great way to develop a whole bunch of skills, including engineering, design, and coding.
But it's not all fun and games. These skills can have actual value that is transferable to the workplace. As automation replaces jobs in many sectors, work in STEM fields is on the rise. Thus, what you can learn by experimenting with these robotics sets could open you up to new job opportunities in the future.
With so many products on the market, choosing the best option for you isn’t easy and will depend on several factors. Primarily, your experience in robotics. That’s why we chose the Makeblock DIY Ultimate Robot Kit as the best overall option for most users. A great thing is that it doesn’t require any prior experience with coding or engineering.
- The Best Robotics Kits for Adults
- Best Overall – Makeblock DIY Ultimate Robot Kit
- Best for Open-Ended Tinkering – LEGO Mindstorms Education Ev 3 Core Set
- Best Budget Option – SunFounder Raspberry Pi Smart Video Car
- Best for General Introduction to STEM – Bioloid Robotis Kidslab 7-in-1 Standard Robotics Kit
- Best for Newbie Makers – LewanSoul Full Metal Programmable Robot Arm
- What to Consider When Buying a Robot Kit for Adults
- Frequently Asked Questions
The Best Robotics Kits for Adults
Best Overall – Makeblock DIY Ultimate Robot Kit
How hard learning robotics is? With the Makeblock DIY Ultimate Robot Kit, it can be as hard or as easy as you need it to be. From kids to students to adult people, anyone can use it.
Flexibility makes it one of the best robotics kits for adults on the market. You can use this DIY robot kit to put together 10+ different robots:
- Robotic ant that skedaddles about like an ant, only a bit more slowly.
- Catapult ram. It will make throwing things around so much easier for your kid!
- A robotic bartender that can use actual bottles. How convenient!
- Detecting robot that moves by rolling over
- 3D capture A and B. Both are handy when you don’t feel like using a selfie stick, yet you really need a 3D selfie. Or a 360-degree panoramic shot.
- Camera dolly. Because who needs a tripod for a camera?
- Self-balancing robot car – how stable can you be on two wheels? You’d be surprised!
- Robotic arm tank. It can’t exactly bring you a slice of pizza, but it’s still fun.
All joking aside, this Arduino and Raspberry Pi compatible robot kit is really cool. As you unbox it, you’ll notice over 160 tiny mechanical parts, motors, sensors, and electronic modules. While putting those together, you’ll get a taste of engineering.
Once you manage to build a robot of your choice, in comes the programming part. You can use open source Arduino IDE, Python, or NodeJS programming language. These skills are growing in importance with each passing year. They may even get you a new career. And a well paid one at that!
But if you’re not very versed in code, you can take advantage of the block-based programming option. To control your new pet, you can use just about any device that has a Bluetooth connection. Download the Makeblock smartphone app, and you’re good to go.
Best for Open-Ended Tinkering – LEGO Mindstorms Education Ev 3 Core Set
Lego Mindstorms is possibly the most popular robotics kit on the market. With Mindstorms, Lego has combined a familiar construction toy with new programming elements, motors, and sensors to create something truly astonishing.
The high spec hardware includes 550 elements, EV3 programmer brick with a powerful ARM9 processor, 3 servo motors plus color, touch, and infrared sensors.
Lego provides instructions for five builds, including the classic humanoid robot, a dog, an elephant, and an awesome all-terrain robot tank. You also have access to instructions for other cool fan-made robots on the website.
However, it's up to you to experiment and see where your creativity takes you. With 48 tutorials to build and program your own robots, you’ll keep your hands busy for years to come! The best part is that Mindstorms is compatible with normal Lego bricks, so you can really let your imagination run wild!
This kit is basically an affordable way to experiment with robotics and even to create prototypes. Check out the video below showing a bridge-laying vehicle built by researchers at the Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences. Then you will begin to understand this set's potential. Oh, and watch at 2x speed. You won't regret it…
The simple drag-and-drop format in the Programmer App is great for beginners if you are new to coding. All you have to do is move graphical blocks representing different commands into your desired sequence. Then send your code to the robot. You can also download the more advanced programming software for PC or Mac if you want to take things a bit further
Yet, the icon-based format has its limitations. There are no debugging tools, and long sequences can become inefficient. If you want to create more complex commands, install a text-based programming language.
An issue that often holds back robotics kits is a lack of a decent support system for when you run into issues. However, the online Mindstorms community is massive and very active. To get advice exactly when you need it, check it out on Reddit. Furthermore, you can also contact the support team and chat with one of the experts.
Another issue with some cheaper sets on the market is poor/missing instructions. Lego, on the other hand, has been selling complex models for years. You can therefore rely on well-formed, detailed guides for all their builds. These reasons are why we recommend Mindstorms as the best build your own robot kit for adults in 2021. The only downside here is that it is quite expensive relative to some other kits!
Best Budget Option – SunFounder Raspberry Pi Smart Video Car
If you think Mindstorms are too high end, the Smart Video Car by SunFounder is a great budget option. You obviously shouldn't expect the same build quality or versatility with this kit. But it's still a nice bit of gear with some pretty awesome features.
It comes with almost everything you need to build your own remote control car. The coolest bit being the wide-angle USB webcam that can live stream videos or images to your computer, smartphone, or tablet!
However, if you don't own them already, you will need to buy some rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and a Rasberry Pi – a tiny open source computer. We recommend the Pi 3 Model B+ as it has a powerful processor and built-in WIFI/Bluetooth connectivity. It is also recommended to buy a PH00 Phillips head screwdriver for the M1.25 screws and a pair of needle-nose pliers when space is too tight for the wrench. This is not essential but will make things easier.
SunFounder provides a manual to guide you through the assembly. We also recommend using additional video tutorials on YouTube. There's also a forum if you get really stuck!
Putting the robot car together is fiddly, but there is no soldering involved when assembling the circuit board. The wiring slots together, which allows room for error. They also provide two spares for every screw and nut. That's a nice touch – there's nothing worse than losing those essential bits!
Please note it is strongly advised that you set up your Raspberry Pi & software up to the calibration stage before building the vehicle. This is because the HDMI port becomes blocked off once you assemble the car, and you have to unscrew the circuit boards to access it. You can watch a video tutorial on the software installation. Unfortunately for SunFounder, this small mistake seems to be the source of quite a few of their unhappy customers.
Control of the car and camera can be done in one of two ways. Firstly, the user interface runs in a browser to be controlled remotely with any device that supports this. The range is equal to the reach of your WIFI, but technically it would be possible to install a 3G dongle and sim card for an unlimited range!
The second option is to program functions with either Python – a dynamic and widely used language, or Dragit – a graphical, drag-and-drop programming interface developed by SunFounder.
Our criticisms of this particular kit mainly relate to the poor quality in a couple of areas. Firstly, the screws provided are pretty weak, and some will likely break during assembly. Rather than providing 2 spares for each, it would have been better just to provide one decent set of screws! You may even want to replace them with better quality ones from the outset.
Secondly, the servo motors are not of great quality, and they can lack the precision for the car to make accurate turns or drive consistently in a straight line. Again, you could replace these if you have the technical capability. If this is the case, you may also enjoy modifying your vehicle further with this modular sensor kit.
Despite these criticisms, this is still a great little kit for the Raspberry Pi and provides a good introduction to the field. This is a robotics kit for adults, which serves primarily as a learning tool, not as an RC toy.
We picked this SunFounder robotics kit as our budget option. But it’s worth noting that the company also offers an even more affordable Robot Arm Edge Kit for Arduino R3 and a Dancing Sloth DIY Robot Kit.
Best for General Introduction to STEM – Bioloid Robotis Kidslab 7-in-1 Standard Robotics Kit
The Bioloid Robotis Kidslab robot kit‘s specialty is that it provides a great general introduction to STEM through 21 weeks worth of courses and tutorials. The curriculum is divided into three phases: basic, application, and practical phase.
The third phase is, of course, most exciting. That’s when you get to explore your full creativity. But it does get some serious footwork to get there! With each robot you build, you will learn the basic principles that guide its construction and behavior.
For example, building and working with the Sequential Command Robot will teach you sequences, stack, and queue. With Bug Fighter, you will get to understand 4-bar linkage, what force is, and how it works in science. There are principles of physics and mechanics, along with computer science notions.
If you like the Bioloid STEM Standard Kit, you can consider getting the premium version with even more possibilities.
Best for Newbie Makers – LewanSoul Full Metal Programmable Robot Arm
If a full-blown robot sounds intimidating to you, how about getting just an arm? The LewanSoul Robot Arm is an Arduino robot with servo controller for a very precise feedback system. It is an excellent choice for people who are completely unfamiliar with programming.
Even the engineering part is by far the simplest on our list. They advertise it as a 10-minute setup, which is a bit of an exaggeration. Still, the arm will be up and running in about a couple of hours, even if you’ve never done it before. And that’s still as smooth a process as possible where robots are concerned! Just make sure to consult their video tutorials.
Best of all, you can use a computer or phone to program it. But this is also one of the very rare programmable robot kits for adults that you can remote control offline, with a handle. Which means this could also be an excellent screen-free gift for your teenager!
All of its six servos feature an RGB indicator that shows angle, temperature, and voltage.
In case you’re looking for extra accessories such as a distance sensor, note that the company has recently changed its name to Hiwonder.
Of course, the relatively low cost of this robot kit comes with a price. It has pretty limited functionality. As you learn more about robotics, your appetites will grow. Apart from this, it’s an excellent robot for kids and adults alike.
What to Consider When Buying a Robot Kit for Adults
How good (and compatible) are the hardware and software?
Unfortunately, there are many robotics kits on the market that suffer from poor hardware, poor instructions/support, or low quality software – sometimes all three! If you are new to robotics, these features are critical to a good learning experience.
Does the kit you’re looking at offer finite or infinite possibilities? A decent robot kit will grow with your skills and allow you to build countless models.
If you’ve never done it before, you’ll appreciate a beginner friendly set. But it’s nice to know that you won’t remain forever restricted to just a handful of options. These kits are not cheap. Some of them can cost an arm and a leg. But even if you choose to pay a lot less than that, you’ll want to make sure to get your money’s worth.
Does it match your knowledge level?
Another major consideration was whether the kit was suitable for both beginner and advanced programmers. We think good robotics sets should feature a simple drag-and-drop icon-based programming interface to get started or for those more interested in the engineering side of things.
However, the kits should also support complex coding languages like Python and other C languages.
There is strength in numbers (and community)
The final factor was the activeness of the community and the quality of online resources available to users. I would primarily emphasize the importance of the community here. Whatever question or dilemma you may have, there’s bound to be someone who’s had it before! The communities can also provide lots of fresh ideas for tinkering with your robot kit.
Luckily, robotics kits nowadays inspire a huge following, so finding kindred spirits shouldn’t be a problem with our picks!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best robotics kit for beginners?
“Great for 8+ years old kids,” “best for toddlers,” “a humanoid robot for your kid”… When it comes to robotics, these selling points cause more harm than good, in my humble opinion. They don’t reflect the reality, which is that most of these kits are good for any age, as long as you’re into robots.
Sure, as an adult, you won’t be able to compete with all those little wunderkinds who started coding while they still toddled about their crib. But nobody says you have to compete with anyone! Why not just start robotics as a hobby and see where it gets you?
And don’t pay attention to those age range labels. The only concern should be whether a product is beginner-friendly or not. If it is, it’s equally good for beginner kids and adults.
How do I get started in robotics?
Robotics happens at the intersection of three huge and complex disciplines: mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer science. But how do you start with no experience in any one of these fields, much less all three?
Luckily, you don’t need a PhD or even a graduate degree to get started. A few online tutorials about electronics will fill you in with the basics. The next step is to start making your first robot! Get in touch with numerous communities around the web. Share your data, experiences, and issues. You will deal with problems as you go.
Finally, don’t shy away from entering various contests. These are the best way to get a huge motivation boost and many incredible ideas.
Robotics is complex alright. At the same time, it's one of the most supportive fields, with tons of open source software and hardware.
Can you build your own robot?
If robots seem like rocket science, that’s because they usually are rocket science. But you won’t be aiming to build an advanced humanoid robot like Sophia. Anyone who has some patience, a few tools, and elementary engineering experience can build a very basic robot. Even though it won’t be beautiful or very smart, it will still make you proud!
You can build a robot with one of the DIY kits that we reviewed above or even try to build one from scratch. For example, this tutorial only requires some very basic components: Arduino microcontroller, servo motors, USB cable, distance sensor, breadboard, wires, and a couple more. It will take a single day if you opt for the simplest little robot with three or four wheels.
Make sure also to check these DIY robot ideas that will cost you under $50 each.
Last update on 2021-02-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API