Robot toys are an enjoyable coding introduction for children of any age.
Programming is an important skill, but it may seem boring to children, especially if their creations are the only thing seen on a screen. It’s no wonder the codable robots are as popular as they are – they allow the engineers of tomorrow see the fruits of their labor, perhaps playing with the family dog or running around the house.
There are a bevy of DIY bots out there, but it may a challenge to find the right one for a coder-to-be. As such, we have put together several selections that accommodate all of age ranges and budgets.
1. Anki Cozmo
Cute, compact, and much smarter than you think.
Cozmo is so compact that you can hold it in your hand. But don’t let the small size fool you – it’s a deceptively intelligent little bot. Targeted towards children ages 8 and older, there is a lot to keep older kids (and grown-ups) entertained as well.
After it’s hooked up to a mobile device, you can attend to your new companion’s needs, much like a Tamagotchi. For instance, it’s “energy” requirement can be fulfilled by engaging with the trio of power cubes. You can have fun teaching the bot new words and expressions. In essence, you’ll be playing with it.
Maybe its greatest feature, though, is the code lab, where kids can make programs of their own using fundamental building blocks. It’s an optimal approach to introducing the basics of coding in a manner that doesn’t feel like schoolwork.Buy "Anki Cozmo" on Amazon
2. Anki Vector
Cozmo has a smarter and larger sibling.
Although Cozmo is a cute, small bot that offers a coding gateway, the Vector comes across a hybrid of a virtual assistant and a pet (more so than a toy).
Vector is substantially bigger than Cozmo and isn’t dependent on a mobile app (aside from the initial setup). Rather, the processing works inside the actual robot, which connects to your Wi-Fi network directly.
When active, the Vector has a legitimate personality (courtesy of a DreamWorks animation specialist) and is able to play games and memorize faces. It will soon be Amazon Alexa-compatible, too.Buy "Anki Vector" on Amazon
3. LittleBits Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit
The DIY droid of your dreams.
Raspberry PI and similar open-source platforms have opened the door for DIY programming, however, the learning curve is quite steep, especially for children. LittleBits comes in handy here, offering youngsters lessons so that they can put together a robot of their own.
Youthful engineers can create their own robot thanks to the directions included in the accompanying app (which is paired with the Star Wars theme by John Williams). The newest update allows you to personalize and re-code it via the Scratch code platform by MIT.
Ambitious robot developers can integrate other elements into their work and obtain remarkable results.
For an idea of what to expect, check out the LittleBits Droid Inventor Kit Competition. You’ll be inspired by the possibilities at your disposal.Buy "LittleBits Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit" on Amazon
4. Sphero SPRK+
The owner grows as the programmable robot evolves.
Orbotix, the manufacturers of the popular toy Sphero BB-8 has released a new smaller DIY-coded robot that looks like a hamster ball holding a Raspberry Pi.
Once SPRK+ connects to a mobile device through Bluetooth, users are able to run pre-coded programs or create one of their own. The SPRK+ is Kindle, Android, and iOS-compatible. There are numerous challenges to try out, such as a raft rescue (with a waterproof ball). Junior coders are able to share what they make with other members of the SPRK+ community.
With regards to coding, there is a trio of complex SPRK+ levels: Draw (illustrate a path for the robot to go through); Blocks (batches of code are dragged and dropped); and Text (create coding of your own from the ground-up). This is not so common, and as such, the small robot will evolve as the owner grows older.Buy "Sphero SPRK+" on Amazon
5. Mekamon V2
Fight your adversaries (virtual or real) using augmented reality.
The makers of Mekamon – Reach Robotics – describe the latest version of their bot as a “real-life Pokémon battle.” A mobile app is used to control the arachnid-esque robot. It can fight virtual enemies or Mekamon ones that are displayed on your device’s screen.
Mekamon V2 is quite enjoyable. You can customize it with MekaMotion, which makes the robot operate the same way a stop-motion puppet does. Like a clay figure, the robot can be posed manually to produce a sequence of “frames” before they are replayed as animation. New coding choices are on the horizon as the app is currently being developed.
Though the Mekamon V2 is quite costly, it is durably constructed. Reach Robotics is dedicated to backward compatibility, and as such, it will continue to receive updates and new features regularly.Buy "Mekamon V2" on Amazon
6. Fisher Price Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar
An initial step into programming that’s enjoyable and simple to comprehend.
This enjoyable toy was developed for children between the ages of 3 and 6. It was meant to introduce coding basics to kids, stimulating them into thinking on their own, and to solve issues by trying out potential solutions.
The robot is produced with removable parts that are representative of coding chunks. When these chunks are rearranged, they will make the adorable robot use another route. The set comes with a sound segment, a few straights, a couple of right turns, and a pair of left turns. Other options – including additional sounds and the ability to turn the robot 180-degrees – are available if purchased separately. They are worth buying when the young coder desires more challenges.
The bot runs quite efficiently on carpets and floor, assuming you have sufficient floor space. The robot will provide kids with the fundamentals of coding principles. They’ll actually have fun learning programming with this non-scholarly approach.Buy "Fisher Price Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar" on Amazon