I’ve been building OWI robot kits since the mid-1980s. Some have been good, a few not worth the box they came in. Every once in a while, OWI does a kit that’s great — their 3-in-1 All Terrain Robot (ATR) is one of these.

This entertaining kit, suitable for kids 12 and up, lets you build three different tracked robots. You start by assembling separate modules, then snap the modules together to create a rover, forklift bot, or gripper crawler. You can always unsnap the modules and reconfigure them for another style. I built the forklift version, spending about three hours while watching reruns of Star Trek. The assembly manual is clear and concise, with great 3D pictures to show how things go together.

The robots are motorized using a wired control box. Two motors operate the left- and right-side tracks, while a third motor operates an extended mechanism — the forklift goes up and down, for example, and the gripper opens and closes.

The ATR is immensely hackable, thanks to its modular design. Unplug the 4-pin connector from the control box, and substitute your own microcontroller. Looks like there’s just enough room on top for an Arduino, a motor shield, and some LiPoly batteries. Seems like I’ll be watching more Trek episodes!

Gordon McComb has been building robots since the 1970s and wrote the bestselling Robot Builder’s Bonanza. You can read his plans to take over the world with an army of mind-controlled automatons, along with other musings, at

View more articles by Gordon McComb