'In order for students to transfer and apply the information and skills they learn in school, they must be able to use that knowledge in a way that is meaningful to them. By designing, building, programming, and documenting robots, students use science, engineering, technology, math, and language arts skills in a collaborative hands-on project that reinforces their learning.'
Here are some notes on items of hardware and software that could be used in a school robotics course (I finally persuaded my school to buy several Lego EV3 robots and began teaching robotics in December 2013).
The key to getting pedagogical value from a robot must be the ease and sophistication (yes, rather contradictory!) with which the robot can be programmed. The most well-known and most powerful robot programming languages and operating systems seem to be:
25 EUR on this Belgian site. See here for more.
If you're thinking the Arduino looks a lot like the Raspberry Pi (see below) then I guess you are right. The difference would be that the Arduino only has a microcontroller whereas the Raspberry Pi has a microprocessor. That means the Raspberry Pi is a real computer, a lot more powerful than the Arduino and programmable directly without the need to connect it up to an external computer. On the down side, the Raspberry Pi is so new that there won't be much supporting literature or hardware available for it for a while to come. Also the Pi probably uses much more power than the Arduino so for battery-powered robotics applications the Arduino is probably the better buy for the time being.
The Sparkfun Inventor's Kit is built around the Arduino (see above).
The photo above (click it for a bigger version) shows one of the experiments set up, with the Arduino board on the right and the breadboard on the left (the breadboard allows you to assemble circuits by plugging things into the board rather than by soldering).
The board has digital and analogue inputs and outputs so it can interface with various sensors and actuators (motors). In other words, it is a great way of controlling robots. The Inventor's Kit includes an Arduino Uno, a breadboard and all the component necessary for you to learn about: programming in C, resistors, servos, motors, LEDs, multicolour LEDs, thermistors, light-dependent resistors, relays, integrated circuits, piezo speakers, flex sensors, potentiometers, diodes, transistors etc. At about 75 EUR plus postage, the kit is excellent value. Working though the 14 experiments might take 10-20 hours depending on how many of the extension exercises you attempt (you should do them all). You can order the Inventor's Kit here: www.sparkfun.com/products/10173
or from Amazon.co.uk.
Still hesitating? Check out
When you've done all the experiments you can get more components and continue learning about electronics and robotics - I bought myself a 'BOE Bot' next - see below. Actually my recommendation would be that you buy the BOE Bot kit without buying the Inventors' Kit first since the BOE Bot kit is so good you can learn many of the same things AND make a robot for only a few Euros more. However if you are more interested in programming robots than understanding the digital electronics that makes them tick then I recommend the new Lego EV3 robot - see below.
Many circuit boards are available that can be plugged into the Arduino - these boards are called 'shields'. Check this link for more ideas
The Arduino Robot is the official Arduino-based robot.
The Parallax BOE-Bot Robotics Kit for Arduino can make your Arduino (see above) the onboard brain of a mobile robot. Learn robotics, electronics, and programming with this versatile kit and its accompanying step-by-step lessons. The Board of Education (BOE) Shield plugs into your own Arduino (included or not included according to which kit you buy) and mounts on the popular BOE-Bot robot chassis. (A 'shield' is any circuit board that plugs into the Arduino.)
With this kit and your own Arduino module, you can follow the
Robotics with the Board of Education Shield for Arduino lessons with
over 40 hands-on activities.
Approximate cost without Arduino or postage: 110 Euros
There is an excellent 50 hour tutorial for the USB BOE Bot at
You should be aware that the BOE Bot chassis is compatible with three different types of microcontroller brain: the Arduino, the Basic Stamp and the Propeller. The Arduino is the one I am recommending but for the moment there are actually more supporting materials for the Basic Stamp (because it's been around for 20 years) and for the Propeller (because that is a more powerful microcontroller designed by the same company, Parallax, that makes the BOE Bot chassis).
See my dedicated Arduino BOE Bot page HERE.
its own special page. One way to use the Raspberry Pi to make robots is to connect it to Lego EV3 robot parts and a plugin board or 'shield' can make that easier. Well-known shields for this include the BrickPi and the PiStorms.
The Banana Pi is clearly inspired by the Raspberry Pi but it's significantly more powerful, more expensive and slightly bigger. It has a number of improvements compared to the Raspberry Pi, such as 1GB RAM, the presence of e-Sata sockets for an external HDD, a microphone, IR receiver, digital audio out, gigabit ethernet etc. Like the Raspberry Pi, it has a number of General Purpose Input/Output (GPIO) pins that could be used to control a robot. There will soon be a Banana Pro model with 40 GPIO (input/output) pins, like the Raspberry Pi B+. This page gives more details on the Banana Pi and Banana Pro and compares them with the Raspberry Pi B+. Buy the Banana Pro HERE. But the UK is so focused on the Raspberry Pi that I'm not too interested in the Banana Pi for the time being... This video introduces the Banana Pi:
The Vex IQ is comparable to the famous Lego Mindstorms EV3 robot (see next paragraph). The Vex IQ is cheaper, is capable of accepting more connections to sensors and motors (12, as opposed to 8 on the EV3) but has the huge disadvantage that it is much less popular and therefore there is much less available in the way of support materials and third party hardware. For comparisons of these two robot kits, see HERE, HERE and HERE (hihi).
The Lego Mindstorms EV3 robot is a popular choice as an educational robot due to its robustness, its modular nature and its affordable price (about 350 Euros). See the navigation sidebar at the left for several pages about the EV3. Lego Mindstorms usually uses a graphical programming environment (you make a program by connecting programming blocks) and this is relatively foolproof but somewhat limiting. But at least a dozen other programming languages can be used including EV3 Python, EV3 Basic, the powerful text-based language pbLua and the text-based language RobotC which is based on C.
The EV3 robot has a central brick running Linux and much more memory than the previous (NXT) version. The EV3 brick is backwards compatible with the sensors and actuators (motors) of the previous (NXT) generation. It is possible to control the EV3 robot using an IPhone or Android phone. It is possible to program the brick directly without the need for an external computer. It is possible to connect up to 8 bricks together. With the basic kit are instructions for building 5 different robots and of course only your imagination will limit the number of original designs that you can create. The price will be $350 in the US or about 350 EUR in Europe. SeeHERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.
Thymio is an open source robot with 20 sensors, 40 lights, 2 motors, and LEGO integration. It can be programmed in several ways: it has a blocky visual programming system, a Blockly interface that resembles Scratch, a textual programming option (but what language?) or the possibility of connecting to it from Scratch. It costs around 100 Euros or 100 USD. See HERE, HERE or HERE. It has been chosen as the basis for the Inirobot robotics teaching initiative in France.
Born at Harvard University, the Root robot has excellent credentials.
Root can draw, erase, play music, and explore its world using over 50 sensors and actuators — making coding relevant to many age groups and experience levels. Root allows you to instantly set up, create, and share coding activities in an unusually interactive way. Root uses the magnetism of a whiteboard to defy gravity and drive on walls to make activities more social. It’s easy and natural to interact with Root just by drawing and erasing and Root can change its environment right back. And since whiteboard surfaces are the same everywhere, kids can share their programs with each other from around the world. If whiteboards are too large or expensive, Root simply works with paper too. For programming, you can switch between three levels of proficiency: graphical blocks, computational constructs, and text programming, aiding the transitions as mastery increases. See HERE.
Smartphones have so many smarts (processor, memory, cameras, GPS, accelerometers, compass, etc) so why not attach a smartphone to a robot base to make a robot that is both powerful and affordable? Smartbot Mk 2 will cost 180 EUR without the phone (Android/Windows/iOS). See also HERE.
Romo is a cheap (150 Euro) robot base that works in conjunction with an I-Phone sitting on top, thus making use of the power of modern smart phone technology. A neat idea! See the video on this site and hear Romo's 'father' talk about it HERE.
VEX Robotics Design System HERE.
TETRIX robots combine the power and popularity of the Lego Mindstorms NXT 'brain' and the strength and rigidity of aluminium parts. See HERE.
this page and this Youtube video .
About 500 EUR.
The TurtleBot works with the Microsoft Kinect depth camera and it sits on top of a chassis (iRobot Create) that is also used by popular robot vacuum cleaners. This helps to keep the price affordable. TurtleBot can explore your house on its own, build 3D pictures, bring you food, take panoramas, and more. TurtleBot comes with an open-source software development kit (SDK) based on ROS (see above) to help you develop applications right out of the box.
is a new type of robot designed to foster creativity, innovation and experimentation. Compatible with Microsoft’s Robotics Developer Studio, Eddie can roam autonomously, see in 3D using the power of the Microsoft Kinect, and be driven remotely using a wireless controller. It has 3 IR sensors and two ultrasound sensors as well as the Kinect connectivity. Cost: about 1300 USD without the Kinect (about 300 Euros) or the laptop computer (compatible with Raspberry Pi?). Click HERE for more and HERE for a YouTube video.
The TurtleBot SDK integrates all the software you need to get TurtleBot running and comes with advanced capabilities like mapping and navigation. TurtleBot comes with low-cost hardware components to give you a capable, autonomous platform for developing robot applications. The iRobot Create, Kinect, netbook, and gyro are all integrated together to get the most out of each. See here or here. Price: about 1500 USD pre-assembled. I think the Eddie computer below is a better buy.
this WIRED article and this TED talk.
By the way, if Moore's law (which says computing power per dollar doubles every 18 months) were to apply to Baxter, then in ten years his cost would fall from 20 thousand Euros to just 200 Euros...