If you’re looking for the perfect gift for a robot mad teenager, you’ve come to the right place. Robots are a way to encourage kids and teenagers to learn while playing with something they love. When searching for a programmable robot for a teenager, it is essential to get something that is fun, but challenging, to keep their interest.
We’ve created a list with some of the best robot gadgets kids, and teens will love. It includes fun toys, gadgets and building sets from robotic arms to controllable cars with cameras, programmable Star Wars droids to humanoid companions.
The recommendations are grouped into different skill levels from the ones that are just for fun with no assembly required to others that require basic coding knowledge. We have also included a few FAQs at the end of this post to cover some of the terms you may run into that you may be unfamiliar with.
Easily programmable robots
This first section is best for those that have an interest in the fun side of robotics. It’s for those who like to have cool, engaging gadgets but don’t want to get bogged down in the building of them or coding principles. Most of them include an element of scratch coding but is not essential to the operation and fun to be had.
In many schools, teachers are starting to introduce bolt into their classrooms as a problem-solving tool. This little robotic ball can be both fun and educational, encouraging STEM learning principles at the same time.
Another great option is you are looking for a robot that offers a lot of fun interaction while also having the ability to educate.
Cozmo, from Anki, is a great little companion with a beginner-friendly interface, and an ideal educational robot for teenagers to learn to code creatively.
There are different skill levels, so if you are a beginner coder, you can enjoy Cozmo’s Sandbox Mode. All you need to do to start coding is snap together blocks to make Cozmo sneeze or sing a song. As your skills develop, you can move into the intermediate mode, constructor.
In this mode, you can take your coding skills to the next level. Intermediate coders can create more complex projects with endless possibilities, like designing games on Cozmo’s display or coding an interactive dance party.
Another option could be the Anki Vector. The Vector is a similar robot to Cozmo, but the level of programming is more advanced, so great if your teenager is already a proficient coder.
UBTECH Alpha 1S Intelligent Humanoid Robot
The Alpha 1S is an entertaining humanoid robot that can connect via Bluetooth to your computer, phone, or tablet. The robot comes pre-packaged with several moves, songs, and games, and the opportunities are endless as the robot can be programmed to do pretty much anything.
If you’re after a really cool looking humanoid robot that offers advanced and straightforward programming, this guy could be the one.
Just be aware, the Alpha 1S does carry a pretty high price tag. The 1S is an upgrade of a previous model which is still available. If you really like the look and idea of this robot, but the price is too high, an alternative would be its predecessor, the UBTECH Alpha 1 Pro Humanoid Robot which is a couple of hundred $s cheaper.
Star Wars First Order Stormtrooper Robot
While this probably only just squeaks into the programmable part of programmable robots, I thought I’d include it anyway as it’s pretty damn cool.
The little stormtrooper robot comes with a free companion app that uses augmented reality and includes pre-designed games, but you can also program your own.
One of the stand out features that we love about this app is the sentry mode. The robot can be ordered to patrol a designated area of your home and keep intruders at bay, and what needs more protection from invaders than a teenagers bedroom!
Moderate level programmable robots
While the previous robots in this list are suitable for anyone of any coding level, these next ones require a small amount of understanding to make the most out of them. Anyone with a little interest in coding should get on well with these programmable robots.
Makeblock MotionBlock Robot Kit
The modular design of the MotionBlock Robot kit from Makeblock is a great way to improve and challenge your family. The set comes with over 10 different configurations, including a gorilla, robotic arm, even a remote control ping-pong ball shooter, who wouldn’t love that!
You can start with scratch coding, which is as simple as dragging and dropping bricks into place, and progress onto Python, which is a little more complicated.
While the MotionBlock is not one of the cheapest options on this list, it will certainly be an option with a long lifespan. Click here to check the latest price on Amazon.
ArcBotics Sparki Robot
An affordable and easy to use introduction to programming, Sparki has over 40 different parts to program, including an LCD display and grippers.
As with many of the robots on this list, the beginner programming starts with easy to use drag and drop blocks before transitioning to Arduino coding, which is based on C++.
With over 100 open-source lessons available, many of which written by educational professionals, there is something for all levels of programmers from complete beginners to advanced robotics students.
UBTECH JIMU Robot Builderbots Kit
The Builderbots kit from JIMU is an excellent value building set for younger teens. The kit contains 357 snap together pieces which can create two different robots, grabber bot, and digbot.
Once built, the robot can be coded to navigate obstacles and pick things up (dirty underwear on a bedroom floor might be an example) using simple block code created on UBTEC H’s app.
While we can’t guarantee tidier bedrooms, we can promise an engaging robotic set with a simple learning curve.
Makeblock DIY Ultimate Robot Kit
Similar in style to the set mentioned above (as in it can be programmed to pick up dirty clothes) this Makeblock robot kit is much larger and advanced.
The kit is excellent for learning robotics and practicing advanced coding. It is driven by a MegaPi board (similar to Raspberry Pi) and is compatible with graphic coding, Scratch coding as well as Python.
The 6061 aluminum mechanical parts, with a threaded-slot design for easy construction, combine to create ten different building forms including a robotic arm, catapult, and even a robotic bartender. Three powerful encoder motors drive the robot to ensure smooth actions and long term reliability.
Freenove Hexapod Robot Kit
Why would you not want a control a robotic spider? OK, well it only has six legs, not eight, but still, it’s a pretty awesome looking machine.
Once build, this hexapod can be controlled via the included remote, phone app or computer. The kit doesn’t have instruction with it, you will need to download them from a website where you will find plenty of tutorials.
The processor is based on Arduino Mega 2560, but improved slightly to control all the servos required and also add-ons if you want to develop the hexapod further than what is included in the kit. This robot is a great challenge for younger teens.
It is worth know that the app to control the hexapod from Freenove is only available on Android.
More advanced robots
If your teenager wants a bit more of a challenge, you could look to some of these more advanced robots. While the construction isn’t necessarily any more complicated, the ongoing learning and possibilities for expansion mean that these robots, and their skill, will be developed over a long period.
Yahboom Ultimate Starter Robotics Kit 4WD Camera Car
Yahboom Raspberry Pi 4WD Smart Robot is specially designed for educators, students. If you’re not sure what Raspberry Pi is, we have a little more about that at the end of this article.
Although the physical construction of this 4WD robot car should be quite straight forward for most teenagers, the integration of Raspberry Pi means that owners can utilize C language programming and Python programming to control their vehicle.
Please note: The Raspberry Pi needs to be purchased separately but it is not much. More information coming towards the end of this post.
LewanSoul 6DOF Full Metal Robotic Arm Kit for Arduino
Robotic arms are hugely popular at the moment, initially, just for manufacturing lines, the technology has been shrunk.
This LewanSoul robotic arm introduces physical learning, logic, building skills, problem-solving, and includes everything needed to build it within the package. Once made the arm can be controlled via a free Android/iOS APP or programming via graphical PC software.
The 6 high-quality servos ensure smooth movement of the robotic arm and the ability to grab in any direction.
This robotic arm will be fun and make a great addition to any bedroom desk.
EZ-Robot JD Humanoid Robotics Set
Probably my favorite on this list. This is one of the ultimate programmable robots for a teenager with simple construction, but loads of programming options and fantastic styling. The advanced EZ-B brain, in this robot, gives it the power to walk, talk, learn, and interact with its world. Meanwhile, the integrated camera enables JD to recognize faces and track objects.
With a smooth learning curve, JD is a humanoid robot that makes it fun to learn about advanced technology. It begins with easy clip and play modular technology that allows for simple customization when building your robot. Once built, JD can be programmed with custom movements, positions, dances!
As your skills improve, more complex abilities can be introduced, such as object tracking, speech recognition, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning.
I cannot promise in the wrong hands that this robot will not try to take over the world, or at least your household, but I’m pretty sure anyone would have fun trying to make it happen!
More about the coding languages mentioned
So there we have it, some of the top programmable robots for teenagers with something to suit all budgets and skill levels, but what about the different coding systems mentioned? While there are lots of different types of code, the ones we see most are – scratch/block coding, Python, and C++. So let’s take a quick look at each type before looking at the two leading platforms, which are Raspberry Pi and Arduino.
Scratch or Block Coding
Scratch coding is probably the simplest of all coding systems as it is a drag and drop builder. While some people consider that it isn’t really that helpful to learning code, real coding is a lot of typing, not drag and drop, others argue that it is a complete programming language in its own right.
Either way, there is no escaping that it is a fantastic way to introduce the concept of coding, which is basically running a series of commands.
There is a whole online community dedicated to scratch coding where you can gain insight, see what others are creating, share your creations, and learn more. What’s best, it’s all free.
Find out more about scratch coding here: https://scratch.mit.edu
Python is a general-purpose, powerful scripting language like PHP, Perl, Ruby, and so much more. It can be used for web developing and is widely used by some of the largest companies, including Google and Wikipedia.
With a little basic knowledge, it becomes an easy-to-use language, making it simple to get programs working. Python is great for backend web development, data analysis, artificial intelligence, and scientific computing.
Learn more about Python coding: http://www.bestprogramminglanguagefor.me/why-learn-python
C++, like many other code languages, arose from C code, which is kind of the Godfather of all coding. It is one of the most popular coding languages which is primarily utilized with system/application software, drivers, and embedded firmware, one significant example of this in action is Windows.
Having a fundamental understanding of C and C++ is hugely beneficial due to how many more modern languages use a C compiler.
Learn more about C++: http://www.bestprogramminglanguagefor.me/why-learn-c-plus-plus
As well as coding types there are a couple of bits of hardware to know about, Raspberry Pi and Arduino.
What is Raspberry Pi?
Basically, it is a cheap, small computer than can be easily programmed using the coding languages mentioned above, and more. The little devices are being used in many different ways such as web access and playing games, to controlling machines and (of course) robots.
To get started with Raspberry Pi there you only need a few things:
- Raspberry Pi Motherboard
- An SD card of 4GB or more
- A power lead
- Keyboard and mouse
All of these can be picked up cheaply on their own, or you can order a starter set with everything you need in one go to get started.
One of the best things that you get when investing is a Raspberry Pi device is the community that comes with it. There are thousands of forums and online resources with people sharing the amazing and creative things that can be done with this little device.
Due to the large fanbase and their willingness to share, there is almost always someone online ready to share some advice if you are stuck with something.
You can discover more about the possibilities of Raspberry Pi here: https://www.raspberrypi.org
What is Arduino?
Arduino is another open-source microcontroller that can be programmed to perform tasks. It uses its own coding language (very similar to C++) and is very affordable.
Arduino vs. Raspberry Pi – how do I decide?
So, while both of the above appear very similar, they are in fact quite different. As a microcontroller motherboard, the Arduino system can be used to run something but only one task at a time, what it is programmed to do. So examples of this would be to control a motor or turn a light on or off.
Raspberry Pi, on the other hand, is more like a computer that can perform multiple tasks. It requires a dedicated operating system and can be hooked up to visual displays, keyboard, and other hardware.
So what does this mean?
As Arduino is capable of performing simple tasks, it is an excellent choice for limited function robots such as robotic arms or home automation. As such, it is much simpler to use. If you are looking to get something for someone still very new to coding and looking for simple robotic projects as an introduction, Arduino is perfect for it.
On the other hand, we have Raspberry Pi. Due to the scope of projects that this little wonder can pull off, there is a bit more of a learning curve, but the opportunities are endless.
As in the example of the Yahboom Ultimate Starter Robotics Kit mentioned above, this car can be driven via code, wifi, also live stream from the camera and much more. With so much going on, it requires something more capable than a simple microcontroller, and that is what Raspberry Pi offers.
Both systems come with large fan bases and forums with many enthusiastic users showing off what they have done and willing to help others. Support is readily available for both systems.
So, I would make a choice based on experience. If it is a first robotics project, or building something to perform a single task, maybe look for a project with Arduino. If I already have experience or am studying coding, then Raspberry Pi offers more in terms of capability and progression.