STEM toys for teens aren’t just suitable for a certain age. They are also incredibly exciting – for a kid, but also mom and dad!
Some robotics kits are great for learning engineering concepts and developing coding skills. That's why they make great STEM gifts for teens. Others include science sets perfect for complementing the school curriculum. Or affordable 3D printers for fuelling creativity!
The teen years are also when kids are expected to begin working out where they want to head in life. That's why getting a taster with some of these sets can help kids figure out precisely what kind of career they would like. It’s also a great way of developing STEM skills in teens that will prepare them for the demands of the 21st century!
One of the best teens robotics kits is undoubtedly Lego Mindstorms Robot Inventor. It has gained so much praise with a good reason. You’ll enjoy it even if you’ve never laid your hands on any STEM project.
Related Post: Best Chemistry Set for Teens in 2021
- 6 Best STEM Toys for Teenagers Reviewed
- What to Consider When Buying STEM or Robotics Kits for Teens
- Frequently Asked Questions
6 Best STEM Toys for Teenagers Reviewed
The first on our list of the best educational toys for teens is the awesome Mindstorms Robot Inventor Building Set from Lego. If you’re interested in robotics for your teen, then you can’t go wrong with Lego Mindstorms! This kit gives you the power to bring your Lego creations to life in a new way.
First, your teen can build their robots using the nearly 1,000 Lego Technic elements and interactive guides from Lego. Next, they can download the app and begin programming with a simple drag-and-drop icon interface.
When ready, your teen can download the advanced software for PC/Mac and begin more complex programming. As Mindstorms is compatible with widely used industry programming languages, kids can develop useful skills. Hence why we also recommend Mindstorms as one of the best coding toys for teenagers!
Many community-built robot guides are available for free on the website. However, there is a lot of scope to create machines, gadgets, and robots.
The high-tech hardware includes a 6-axis gyro, servo motors, infrared sensors, color sensors, and touch sensors. From Rubix cubes solvers to mini Lego car factories to full-sized wheelchairs, the things that fans worldwide have made with Mindstorms are mind-blowing!
Cozmo is a revolutionary robotics kit from Anki which teaches teens coding and programming. Packed with high spec hardware including a 30 fps VGA camera with state of the art facial recognition software, high-resolution facial display, powerful CPU, and four motors with over 50 gears, it’s so much more than just a toy!
All this computing power enables Cozmo to recognize you (and your dog). It can also learn from experiences and evolve a unique personality the more you hang out. It is like having your little robot friend!
Download the app and begin playing games with Cozmo, unlocking new skills, modes, and more. That is where this little robot’s emotions shine. If he wins, he gets happy, loses, and he gets grumpy. If you ignore him, he gets frustrated. If he’s bored, he will get curious and explore. You get the picture!
What’s more, Digital Dream Labs (the company that bought Anki) has promised new updates and editions. One of the latest updates gave Cozmo the ability to recognize dogs! It’s innovations like this that give us cause to recommend this set as one of the best STEM toys for teens.
Cozmo Software Development Kit
And we haven’t even got to the best bit! With the Cozmo Software Development Kit (SDK), Anki gives you the power to create your custom software. There are many example scripts to get you started. Teach Cozmo to sing a scale, patrol for intruders, and turn him into an alarm clock!
There are so many possibilities with access to higher-level functions, including the vision, behavior, and animation systems and the ability to connect to third-party APIs like Twitter, Hue, and IFTTT. Think programming Cozmo to integrate with your smart home! Furthermore, the SDK uses the widely used programming language Python so that kids can develop valuable skills with Cozmo.
However, Anki seems to have realized that limiting the development of custom software for Cozmo to text-based coding languages was restrictive for entry-level users. That’s why they also released a visual drag-and-drop software development platform called Code Lab. It hugely simplifies the writing of programs for Cozmo and provides a good introduction for beginners.
So if you felt the SDK was still a bit complicated for your teen, other options are available. The fact that writing your software for Cozmo is accessible to those of all levels while still offering more advanced options makes this an excellent coding kit for teens of all levels.
Microscopes are one of the best STEM toys for teens for inspiring kids to get into science as they expose the world around them. Otherwise uninspiring things like skin, hair, and plants can become something new and exciting, promoting a natural curiosity in science.
You may see cheaper scopes with higher magnification, but low-quality parts result in low image quality. That can be disappointing for kids. Conversely, the My First Lab Duo-Scope features lab-grade components with glass optics that can produce clear, high-resolution images. This microscope is of great value, and we think it’s one of the best science toys for teens out there.
The set comes with a 50 piece accessory kit including a petri dish, pipette, forceps, non-toxic stains, and blank slides. It is also an excellent way for kids to get to grips with essential scientific equipment. What’s more, it also includes four prepared slides to get things started, as well as many suggestions for further observations. These involve observing live microorganisms from pond water, how to stain specimens, how to grow and observe mold, comparing insect wings, and observing onion cell mitosis.
As it’s a duo-scope, it also has the option to illuminate objects from above and below with an LED light. That is a great all-rounder and can provide a perfect introduction to microscopy. Plus, the included activities are perfect for getting kids started and complementing the school curriculum.
Not everything in STEM is about robotics for teens – 3D printers have the potential to revolutionize the way we live our lives. Imagine being able to simply download designs and print everyday household goods on demand from the comfort of your own home! Unfortunately, up until relatively recently, many commercially available 3D printers had high barriers to entry due to the price, software, and general usability.
However, in the past couple of years, we have seen a wave of budget printers hit the market. Their quality isn’t bad, either. So we’ve decided to include them as one of our best STEM toys for teens in 2021 for developing 3D design and creativity skills. XYZprinting is one such company that offers a range of entry-level 3D printers that require little setup.
The da Vinci Mini Wireless is one of their relatively new machines, which still provides a printing resolution of 100-400 microns despite being an entry-level printer. If you are new to the concepts, the resolution is an indicator of the details in the models that the printer can produce. Lower generally is better, but it is not always as clear cut like this! Here's a guide to printing resolution and what some of the other specs mean.
What’s great about the daVinci Mini is that it is tailored for beginners. It’s practically ready to go right out of the box with only some parts to clip together. The auto-calibration function ensures correct configurations. Plus, printing is simplified with a single ‘print’ button and you can send designs over WIFI or via USB. Additionally, the auto-feeding filament system and non-heated print tray make the daVinci Mini an even safer buy for first-timers.
What’s more, free XYZmaker software is easy to use. There are online step-by-step tutorials if you get stuck, as well as live tech support. You can use the software’s model library and a range of tools to create 3D designs.
Furthermore, the XYZprinting Gallery features thousands of free 3D models available for download ranging from tools to toys to smartphone accessories! It’s great for creative exploration. That's why we recommend it as one of the best educational kits for teens. A true example of STEAM as it includes the art element!
One of these printers’ potential downsides is that they are only compatible with XYZ’s printing filament. While this is certainly annoying, the XYZ filament used with the daVinci Mini is starch-based and non-toxic, so safer for printing in the home and comes from sustainable sources such as sugarcane.
If you want the freedom to buy any filament, the famous Monoprice Mini Delta is a great value alternative. It also has a pretty small max print size, but this is expectable for the price! All in all, it is a great value option.
Are you looking for a more capable 3D printer with a larger build volume and high flexibility? If that’s your cup of tea, we highly recommend the Comgrow Creality Ender 3 3D Printer, which has some great features for the price.
We also have a separate article devoted to our recommendations for the best 3D printers available under $200.
If you’re looking for a lower cost teens robotic kit, the Makeblock DIY Ultimate Kit is a great place to start. Similar to Mindstorms and Cozmo, these sets are all about building and programming your robots. The programming aspect features Makeblock’s icon-based, drag-and-drop software called mBlock based on Scratch 2.0. There is also a forum where you can post questions if you get stuck!
The set provides an excellent introduction to programming and robotics for teens. However, if your kid has some experience, the mBlock software has a nifty feature that allows you to toggle between the python text editor and graphical interface with one click! It helps kids bridge the gap between visual and text-based programming by revealing the exact code behind each block.
Part of the building process involves assembling electrical components. It’s a significant difference from sets like Mindstorms, where all these parts come pre-assembled. However, the process is made easy with color-coded wires and clip in styled wiring that does not require soldering. It is excellent for developing necessary electrical engineering skills and understanding of electrical components.
The set comes with build instructions for ten robots. However, there are lots of cool expansions, including a robotic arm, light & motion sensors, and an LED light board for creating your facial expressions, animations, and emotions! The components are all of decent quality, with a solid aluminum structure.
As with other sets, Makeblock is designed for tinkering and exploring your imagination. This trait is why we picked Makeblock as one of the best STEM toys for teens this year.
Born out of a Kickstarter campaign, Arckit is an innovative new set for designing and constructing your miniature buildings, structures, landscapes, and even cities! The parts are all modular and snap together, meaning they are reusable and allowing kids to experiment with countless designs. Additionally, there are lots of different sets available with those in the same range, all compatible.
Arckit Masterplan is one of the most inspiring in the range. The massive set features 390 pieces and allows you to design your miniature cities complete with high rises and overpasses! You can add eight A5 printed vinyl sheets to the designs to give them texture and a more life-like appearance. It also includes an introductory booklet and lots of interactive videos and guides on the Arckit YouTube channel.
Developed by architects, this is so much more than a toy. Arckit is of a professional quality. Your child can use it to learn how real architects in the industry carry out urban planning, construction, and design. It’s a unique kit and one of the best building sets for teens we have encountered, but we aren’t the only ones!
The company has received many toy awards and featured in several top news outlets, including Forbes and Wired.
Summary of the Top STEM Toys for Teens
Much research has gone into compiling and writing the reviews in this article, so we hope you now have a more informed choice on what’s out there. If you felt the toys featured here were still a bit too basic for your kid, check out our article on the coding and robotics toys for adults. Otherwise, happy learning!
If you're looking for more ideas, check out these related posts:
- Best Educational Toys for 13 Year Olds
- Best Educational Toys for 14 Year Olds
- Best Coding Toys for Kids and Teens
What to Consider When Buying STEM or Robotics Kits for Teens
Let it strike a chord
Even if this is your first time raising a teen, you know how teens are. (Remember when you were one?) They are notoriously moody and difficult. As much as we understand and support them, pleasing them is often nearly impossible.
Even if you choose the most brilliant toy in the world, your teen may decide to scoff at it. If your kid is into coding but hasn’t tried their hands in building things? That may be a good enough reason for them to discard your gift.
So, if you don’t want your elaborate robotics kit to end up in the garage, make sure to double-check with them before buying. Surprises aren’t always right!
Support and Community
Imagine a robot kit for teens that you can use to build 100 different models. And then use five different programming languages to make those models do just about anything you can imagine.
All that fascinating functionality may amount to nothing if you don’t have resources, tutorials, or instructions. There are 1,000 pieces on the table but your hands are tied.
While an adult wouldn’t take it personally, a teen may easily understand it as a failure. They can even get discouraged from tackling new projects in the future.
Self-confidence is paramount for success, which is why you should always opt for products that come with great support. In the digital age, the internet is chock full of communities and fanbases. Your child can even enter contests and other stimulating activities in-person or online!
Does Age Really Matter?
Toys come with age labels and for good reasons. These labels often indicate safety concerns such as choking hazard. If you disregard these labels while buying toys for a toddler, they may end up hurting themselves. Or getting frustrated because the toy is just too complicated.
However, where STEM toys for teens are concerned, there’s a different side to the story. A robotics kit may suggest 8+ years old on the label. Does that mean it’s too simple for a 15-year-old child? Not necessarily! The best robot kits will be equally fun and instructive for any single person over a certain age threshold.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best robotics kit for beginners?
For complete beginners, the LEGO Boost Creative Toolbox would be our top pick. However, once they are teenagers, LEGO Mindstorms is more appropriate.
What is a programmable robot?
Programmable robots can perform functions according to a defined program. In other words, they don't need human control.
How does my teen get started in robotics?
Several excellent quality electronics and robotics kits are ideal for learning robotics. LEGO Mindstorms is one of them since it's programmable in increasingly sophisticated ways as your teenager develops their robotics skills.
Can my teen learn robotics on their own?
Yes, it is certainly possible to learn robotics alone. The best kits come with excellent instructions and guided projects. There are also many fantastic video tutorials available on the internet.
However, many teenagers will learn more quickly and enjoy more if they join relevant discussion forums and online communities about robotics.
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Last update on 2021-01-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API