Basics: How Do I Differentiate Between Robotic Kits?

Posted on 04/10/2018 by cbenson in Basics
Modified on: 24/03/2023
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Robots and artificial devices have always interested humans as they are the first devices mankind has created that have the potential to match and surpass our own abilities. For this reason, many technologically advanced companies have created robot kits in order to satisfy people's needs and designs.

Robots and artificial devices have always interested humans as they are the first devices mankind has created that have the potential to match and surpass our own abilities. For this reason, many technologically advanced companies have created robot kits in order to satisfy people's need and desire for devices that emulate human thought, form, and function. Robotic kits allow people to learn how to create a particular type of robot while gaining the knowledge, skills, and expertise to be used in building ever increasingly complex robots.

Robotic kits allow people of all ages to learn how to assemble and use one or more particular robots. In so doing, people will be able to understand the technology, principles, and equipment behind the design and creation of robots. If you are new to robotics or not quite ready to make the leap to fully custom robots, there is a kit out there that will be correct for your skill level and also allow you to build and possibly code a robot that would have otherwise been impossible to do on your own.

Almost all robotic kits (aside from kits that teach specific principles) include some form of motion. The majority of these use two or more wheels to propel the robot, while others may use tracks, legs, or even blades and wings! Many beginner kits aimed at <12 years old can be easy to construct with only a few snap-together parts, while more complex robots have hundreds of parts and encourage you to create your own semi-custom design. Not to worry, all robot kits include instructions on how to build and use the robot. Note that some kits require soldering; if you are not sure what "soldering" is, take a look at this video.

To know more about robot kits, and which is right for you, here is a list of some of the available kits that you can try out:

As the name implies, these robot kits are made for those who are new to robotics and prefer to start simply, with step-by-step instructions. These kits are specially designed to educate and orient those people who would like to explore robotics, but not looking to spend a lot of money or take too long to build a functional bot. Most of these beginner kits are aimed at 12 years old and up, though some can be built by children as young as 8 and 9, while others are versatile enough to entertain adults.

For example, for $39.99, the OWI Arm Edge is one of the most popular kits in this category; it is by far the least expensive robotic arm on the market and although it can't pick up a full can of cola, it can certainly pick up and move most small objects. Use the arm to move and stack blocks, draw a shape or design, and much more!

These robot kits are made for the robot hobbyist who has some knowledge in robotics and/or a related field and is prepared to take more time in building and troubleshooting a kit but perhaps does not want to start from scratch or attempt higher-level programming. These intermediate kits are more involved than beginner robot kits because they require one or more of the following:

- Advanced assembly: Many of these kits require some soldering and working with intricate parts. Some of these kits are designed especially to help improve soldering skills.

- Programming: Almost all of these kits require some programming, and many are oriented towards the hobbyist who is looking to learn how to program, but not necessarily very high level (first time using sensors, motors, creating an autonomous robot, etc).

- Capability: unlike the robots in the beginner category, these robots are usually not restricted to just one task or motion. A large number of these kits can be upgraded with additional sensors and parts.

At <$100, the DFRobotShop Rover is intended to be a mobile platform for those who have heard about "Arduino" but are not necessarily sure where to start. The kit includes everything you need to get started in mobile robotics. The PCB includes a standard Arduino Uno as well as a dual motor controller and voltage regulator. Arduino is one of the best ways to get started in "serious" robotics because of its ability to perform complex calculations and communicate with and control other devices.

Advanced robot kits employ more complicated designs and structures and require more knowledge of robotics. The most advanced robot kits are currently "humanoid" robots, meaning they almost resemble the human body. Although controlling each joint may be straightforward, the difficulty arises from having to control many at the same time and in such a way as to achieve balance and motion.

Other forms of advanced motion include Mecanum and Omni wheels, legged and multi-legged robots (some with as many as 21 degrees of freedom), and platforms with advanced sensors. All of these robots require a higher level of programming and although some code may be provided, it is understood that the customer intends to create their own custom code.

The Kondo KHR series humanoid robots closely resemble miniature robot humans and use 17 servos to move their legs, arms, and head. There is some sample code available, but with a robot like this, almost anything is possible: program it to do some dance moves, climb stairs, do martial arts, and much more!

Robot construction kits are more than just toys: they use interchangeable parts and can be programmed in a variety of ways. The sensors and electronics used in many of these kits are complex and need to be programmed in order to be used to their full potential. Many of the kits can even be used to create humanoid robots. Robot construction kits offer the big advantage of saving you the time needed to construct intricate mechanical parts.

The VEX line of construction kits uses metal brackets and durable plastic parts and allows you to let your mind go free to come up with whatever robotic design it wants; create a robot arm, a 6WD robot with suspension, a motorcycle, and much much more!

Robot Development Platforms are ideal for the experienced robot builder who is looking for a pre-made platform on which he or she can electronics, a battery pack, sensors, and more. Most robotic platforms come with the motors required for each degree of freedom, though most kits leave it to the customer to decide which electronics to select. Many platforms have a downloadable computer interface, though oftentimes the user chooses whichever programming language they are most comfortable with.

Electronic experimentation kits are ideal for the young robotic enthusiast who is looking to gain knowledge and experience with electronics and simple circuits. Although there may be some mechanical construction required, electronic experimentation kits are focused mainly on the electronics aspect of robotics.

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