Choosing robots for students and kids

Buying a robot for your child or student is not an easy decision. It’s terribly difficult to navigate between the shoals of price, ease-of-use, educational value, and slick marketing claims.

So a review of robots in the classroom in an Australian context is a handy tool. Entitled Robots in the 2016 Australian Classroom, the review comes from the very experienced Roland Gesthuizen, backed by an array of teachers with hands-on experience. There are reviews of 16 individual kits, general advice, and comparison tables.

While the document is obviously aimed at the classroom environment, and really useful in that context, a parent could happily read between the lines in looking for guidance in choosing a robot for their child.

My only wish would be that there was more feedback on educational outcomes from the kits. It’s very hard to compare the slick completed units like Sphero with something you can build infinite variations from like the Arduino. But I guess that at the end of the day, whether in a classroom or a home context, this is going to come down to what the kids are like, what you are trying to achieve, and what your budget is.

Finding cheaper alternatives to the big-ticket kits like Mindstorms remains a serious issue in all contexts. But one thing that comes through the review is that the up-front sticker-price needs to be balanced with how long the kit will last – people are still successfully using the first generation NXT kits for example. So high up-front may well work out cheaper when the kit is still in use five years later.

If you are looking for some guidance on choosing a robot kit, I highly recommend taking a look at Robots in the 2016 Australian Classroom.

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