Give the gift of holiday robot cheer! I love robots, and the holiday season is as good as an excuse as any to buy some fun robot stuff.
Whether you are looking for a cool robot toy (“It’s for the kids. Really, honey!”), the latest and greatest robot kits, exciting new parts for your next robot, or books to help you learn, this is the guide for you.
Holiday Gift Guide 2013: Robots
DFRobot Spider Robot Kit $7.16
This little robot kit gives you a couple of assembly options to change the spider's stride and gait. Once assembled it would make a good toy. Or take my suggestion and buy two, add a brain and a sensor and make yourself a cool programmable robot spider!
MAKE BrushBots $19.99
OK, it's not much of a robot, but it is a fun project to make with kids. This kit comes in as a four pack, so it's perfect for groups. It is a great introduction to making, that provides a quick success to build confidence. Once you've built one, try experimenting by making a catamaran style double design. Or add pipe cleaners as antennae, feelers or feet to see how it affects the BrushBot's movement.
Combat Creatures Attacknids $79.99
The Stryder and Doom Razor six legged RC robots can turn 360 degrees. Battle with interchangeable foam dart and disc weapons, blasting at removable armor on the legs. Make three shots to the head and your opponent's Attacknid powers down, defeated! Also quite hackable if you want to add your own microcontroller and sensors to turn this toy into a full-fledged robot.
Orbotix Sphero V2.0 $129.99
Sphero is a App controlled robotic ball and so much more! It connects via Bluetooth to your Android, iOS or Windows phone or tablet to let you drive Sphero or play over 25 games that are downloadable via the App Store and Google Play. The Sphero Version 2.0 has been upgraded to be faster, brighter, and better than ever - reaching speeds of up to 7 feet per second using its new drivetrain.
MAKE Robot Bundle $69.95
This awesome set of four robotics projects includes all the electronic parts you need to build Mousey the Junkbot, a BEAM Trimet and Solar Roller, and a Beetlebot. You will need to supply some easy to find additional parts. The bundle saves over $20 compared to buying these kits separately. Build instructions are on linked from the Maker Shed page under the How-To tab.
Rocket Brand Studios Tadpole $69.95 to $109.95
The Tadpole is a really well designed no-solder kit that is great for a starter and has room to grow for more advanced users. You can buy the bare chassis and add your own brain and sensors, or select an Arduino-compatible microcontroller and sensor package. Rocket Brand Studios also sells compatible add-ons like a pan and tilt kit or wheel encoders for more accurate navigation. The Tadpole is also available as a less expensive educational model.
Not only do you get a great 4WD robot platform complete with Arduino Leonardo microcontroller, sensors, and necessary electronics, but you also get both printed and PDF forms of the Make an Arduino Controlled Robot book, by Michael Margolis. Nice. A slightly less expensive 2WD kit is also available.
EZ-Robots Revolution $249.00 to $469.00
The Revolution line includes three complete robot platforms. Roli is a tracked rover and probably the easiest to start with. Six is a hexapod walker, a bit more advanced and very cool. JD is a bipedal robot, and is the most challenging. EZ-Robot has developed a range of parts (EZ-Bits) that connect using "Clip 'n' Play" technology. You can buy one of these platforms and customize it, or buy parts a la carte and design your own robot from scratch. Included EZ-Builder software helps you program walking gaits and custom movements. (Pre-orders available now!)
UDI Quadcopter w/ Camera $83.49
Last year I reviewed the UDI U816 4CH Mini Quadcopter. This year UDI produced a new quadcopter with a video camera for entry level aerial photography and videography. It's not the full HD quality you'd get from a GoPro camera or the like, but it's pretty good for the price. Video is downloaded via a USB cable after your flight. A 6-axis gyro helps with stable flight for good pictures and video.
Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 $293.52
Still popular from last year, this complete aerial drone package includes full speed High Definition (HD) video, a nice sensor package, and control via your smartphone or tablet. The AR.Drone is out of the box fun!
DJI Phantom $479.00
The new hotness in ready-to-fly quadcopters, the Phantom comes with a camera mount to attach your GoPro or other light weight camera. The Phantom also includes great features like an autopilot and a GPS module.
AeroQuad Cyclone $535.00
For those who would rather build than buy, the Cyclone frame comes as a kit using sturdy metal construction that will handle some heavy usage. The kit provides almost everything you need to build a Cyclone based AeroQuad. The only thing left to choose is your battery, battery connector and desired R/C transmitter/receiver.
This forth edition focuses on robot projects that are affordable and can use widely available parts and simple tools. The book provides guidance on robot construction, choice of materials, and understanding different robotic components. Plus, there is an excellent online support site that provides additional material.
You’ll learn how to build and program an Arduino-based robot that can roam around, sense its environment, and perform a wide variety of tasks. All you need to get started with the fun projects is a little programming experience and a keen interest in electronics. This is a great guide to building a two or four wheeled robot. This book is also included as part of the package when you buy one of these robot kits from the Maker Shed. So consider getting a kit and you'll get this great book to boot!
ServoCity Actobotics Parts Prices Vary
These high quality parts will take your robotics project to the next level. Precision made metal channel and brackets, sprockets and pulleys, fasteners and hardware are all designed to work together. I especially like the motors and servos with mounting hardware and gearboxes integrated right in.
Maker Shed Robot Accessories Prices Vary
The Maker Shed keeps robot parts in stock and usually ships in 1 to 2 business days. They've got standard, micro and continuous rotation servos, XBee wireless radios, Arduino shields to drive motors or build prototypes, sensors, gear motors with wheels and more. Get started making your robot!
See all our 2013 holiday gift guides here.
Andrew Terranova is an electrical engineer, writer and an electronics and robotics hobbyist. He is an active member of the Let’s Make Robots community, and handles public relations for the site.
Andrew has created and curated robotics exhibits for the Children’s Museum of Somerset County, NJ and taught robotics classes for the Kaleidoscope Learning Center in Blairstown, NJ and for a public primary school. Andrew is always looking for ways to engage makers and educators.