Brace yourself for a revolution in robotics education! As we enter a new decade filled with endless possibilities, it’s time to break free from the Lego Mindstorms and explore alternative options that can truly prepare learners for what lies ahead. In this article, we will provide you with a comprehensive overview of cutting-edge robotics kits — the best alternatives to Lego Mindstorms (the popular robotics kit) — that go beyond traditional boundaries and equip you with everything needed to conquer the rapidly evolving technological landscape of the 2020s.
The demand for advanced coding skills, mechanical expertise, sensor integration, and artificial intelligence know-how is skyrocketing. Get ready to embark on an exciting adventure that will reshape how you perceive robots forever!
1. For Beginners Ages 12+: LewanSoul Robotic Arm for Arduino
We might be a little biased when it comes to Arduino, but their kits are certainly a great alternative to Lego Mindstorms. The LewanSoul Robotic Arm for Arduino kit is a great choice because you can learn a wide range of applied robotics when you learn about arms. (Especially with the rise of automated manufacturing in today’s modern world!)
The LewanSoul Robotic Arm is a top-tier desktop robot arm that can be remotely controlled and programmed with its user-friendly interface.
The smart servo system, packed with features like position, voltage, and temperature feedback, ensures that every movement is precise. The cool part — it can securely grasp objects weighing up to 500g. The build quality is commendable too – the robust aluminum alloy frame ensures it remains steady during operations.
For those just starting their robotics journey or seasoned aficionados interested in bionic or even manufacturing robotics (pick and place), the LewanSoul Robotic Arm serves as a great next step beyond Lego Mindstorms. It strikes a balance between functionality and intuitive design, making it a must-have for any robotics enthusiast, hobbyist, or future engineer.
2. For Newer Coders: Yahboom Jetson Nano (ROS)
Next on the list is the Yahboom Jetson Nano ROS kit.
But what truly sets this robot apart is its advanced components. It’s loaded with a depth camera, lidar, and a voice interaction module, offering a multitude of applications.
Whether it’s 3D mapping navigation, machine vision, or even voice-controlled operations, this robot is well-equipped for the task. As someone venturing into more serious robotic programming, the sooner you can get into ROS, vision, and AI by understanding common applications, the more competitive edge you’ll have in the future. (Especially as AI keeps moving the goalpost on the limits of technology.)
I think this kit has a strong mix of compatible components and instruction that can help beginners move out of “Lego Mindstorm” or “Arduino Prototyping,” and into the new era of “Robotics Engineering.”
For newcomers or even seasoned robotics enthusiasts, Yahboom’s comprehensive educational resources are a major bonus. The company offers a rich selection of course materials, ranging from simple assembly tutorials to more advanced courses on Linux operating systems and ROS programming.
In summary, if you’re venturing into ROS2 development and seek a hassle-free “building” experience without the usual compatibility headaches, the Jetson Nano ROS2 Robot from Yahboom comes highly recommended. It’s an ideal blend of top-tier performance and educational value.
3. For Software Engineers: Yahboom Rosmaster X3
The Yahboom Rosmaster X3 is a great pick for Software Engineers looking to take their advanced computer science skills into the world of Robotics. It has everything you need and compatibility with all of the “latest and greatest” tech.
The fact that it supports both the Jetson series boards and the Raspberry Pi 4B board makes it incredibly versatile. With this robot, you can develop applications such as mapping and navigation, autopilot, human feature recognition, and even simulate control of a robotic arm.
The 7-inch touch screen is a game changer – it allows easy debugging. One of my favorite parts about this kit is how user-friendly this platform is for coders and software engineers who are new to robotics.
If you’re looking for a feature-rich robotics platform with solid support for advanced software development, look no further than the Yahboom Rosmaster X3.
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4. For Unique Projects: JetHexa Hexapod Robot Kit
In the rapidly advancing world of robotics, it’s rare to stumble upon a product that genuinely captivates its user from the get-go. And the fact that the JetHexa Hexapod Robot Kit is a “robot spider” makes it all the cooler!
At the heart of this robot lies the potent Jetson Nano B01, ensuring optimal performance. This hexapod robot not only comes with the backing of this powerful unit but also offers support for the Robot Operating System (ROS), elevating its capabilities to a whole new level.
The future of robotics lies in integration with deep learning, and the JetHexa Hexapod Robot Kit doesn’t disappoint. With support for deep learning frameworks, YOLO model training, and TensorRT acceleration, this robot is more than just a mechanical wonder – it’s a symbol of the future of AI-powered robotics.
Even with all its advanced features, the JetHexa Hexapod Robot Kit ensures that users aren’t left overwhelmed. With multiple control methods and a detailed tutorial bundled in, the user experience is smooth, making it an excellent pick for both robotics enthusiasts and those venturing into the field.
For those with a passion for robotics, the JetHexa Hexapod Robot Kit emerges as an embodiment of technological evolution and innovation. It’s not just a robot; it’s a continuous learning journey, filled with exploration and wonder. Check it out here.
5. For Fun Robots with Raspberry Pi: Robotic Dog V2 Kit
If you’re familiar with or like Boston Dynamic’s Spot Robot, the CM4 XGO Robot might catch your interest. This isn’t just a robot dog—it has 15 different ways to move, comes with a useful robotic arm, and grippers, and can move in any direction.
Plus, with an easy setup, and open-and-play right out of the box, it’s not “too difficult” for the “more advanced beginner” to get started with.
The best part is it uses the Raspberry Pi, allowing it to handle smart tasks. This is a big plus for those interested in learning advanced programming. It also includes IMU, position sensors, and current sensors, ensuring it works smoothly.
Overall, I’d say this kit is a solid alternative to Lego Mindstorms and is best for those looking to improve their programming skills. All in all, it’s an exciting and smart robot to explore. Get yours here.
6. For Learning AI: Robotics Arm with AI Hand
In my quest for cutting-edge robotic kits, I recently came across the Robotic Arm with AI Hand Kit, and I had to add it to this list. What sets this apart is the integrated camera, which enables FPV video transmission. This unique feature not only improves the learning experience but allows you to control the arm with gestures by interpreting images and video.
The AI bionic features of this arm are nothing short of revolutionary. Its ability to discern colors, gestures, and faces showcases the strides made in the realm of artificial intelligence. Imagine a robotic arm that not only recognizes your face but also responds to your gestures! The added feature of face tracking introduces a touch of personalization that’s seldom found in similar kits.
Functionality and adaptability stand out prominently when discussing the Robotic Arm with AI Hand. But it’s not just about the hardware; the control mechanisms deserve special mention. The kit provides a whopping five control methods: an APP, a USB gamepad remote control, a PC-based visual interface for image transmission, the ROS system simulation model, and the innovative Jupyter Lab online programming.
The Robotic Arm with AI Hand isn’t just a product; it’s an experience. For those keen on blending robotics with AI, this kit provides a combination worth considering.
7. For High School Classrooms: DJI RoboMaster S1
In the 7th spot, we have the DJI RoboMaster S1. And let me tell you, if you’re looking for a Lego Mindstorm Alternative for middle and high school classrooms in the 2020s, this could be it.
DJI has redefined what I expect from educational robots. Drawing inspiration from DJI’s renowned annual RoboMaster robotics competition, this mini car offers an immersive journey into the worlds of science, math, physics, and programming.
One of the standout features is its modular design, allowing enthusiasts like me to assemble it hands-on, deepening the connection and understanding of its mechanics. The robot boasts six programmable AI modules, providing an excellent platform to delve into the future-forward world of artificial intelligence. The Mecanum wheels, facilitating omnidirectional movement, not only elevate its mobility but also introduce an element of thrill to the learning process.
With robust support for popular programming languages like Scratch and Python, the S1 ensures adaptability to different learning curves, making it a perfect fit for beginners and pros alike. Beyond its capabilities, the craftsmanship stands out – it’s durable, high-quality, and more than just a plaything.
For those passionate about STEM, the DJI RoboMaster S1 emerges not as a mere robotics kit but as a catalyst for enriched learning and exploration.
8. For College Applications: LIDAR, SLAM & Navigation
Another “Spot-style” Robot on our list is the PuppyPi: Quadruped Robot Bionic Robot Dog. Back in #5, we spoke about another Robot Dog, however, I’d recommend this option if you’re more advanced and want to “code everything” by exploring applications using LIDAR, SLAM, and Navigation.
This robot will teach you about autonomous climbing, ball shooting, line following, and classic “problems” in robotics — but from the perspective of a “walking robot” — all while leveraging the ever-popular Raspberry Pi.
But it’s not just about mechanics; the AI vision capabilities truly set it apart. From target recognition to line following and even face detection, it’s a testament to the advancements in robotics.
Another standout feature is the adaptability of its movements. Adjusting the gaits of the robot becomes a breeze, courtesy of the inverse kinematics algorithm. And for those keen on pushing the boundaries, the option to integrate lidar expansion provides a vast playground for exploration and innovation.
For beginners or those hesitant about diving into the world of applied robotics, the PuppyPi Quadruped Robot Bionic Robot Dog kit comes with detailed tutorials. And, as the reviewer rightly pointed out, the professional after-sales service is the cherry on top.
Whether you’re a student aiming to ace that science fair, get into an engineering college with a cutting-edge portfolio, or simply a robotics enthusiast, this kit stands as an impeccable blend of innovation, practicality, and fun.
9. For Youth & Beginners: Meet Edison Robot
If you want to offer robotics as a youth beginner class, I’d recommend purchasing a classroom set of Meet Edison Robots. That way students can have their own robot and pick up programming skills. Gone are the days we share laptops — in the 2020s, gone are the days we should expect to share robotics kits. When each student has a robot, they can participate in meaningful ways. Plus, it’s much more engaging than watching others have fun (while hogging the bots).
Meet Edison is a good option to expand past Code.org (or similar coding programs) and make the shift to robotics. I’d recommend starting with this set if you have a group of students (ages under 10 years old) who are interested in beginner robotics classes.
Plus, the nice thing about the Meet Edison Robots is that you can use them with a variety of programming languages and solve problems using our Scratch Project Guide or integrate Python with our Python Project Guide. Start your 5-7 year olds in Sratch, then graduate your 7-10 year olds to Python. Win-win!
Additionally, the body of the Meet Edison robot is compatible with Lego bricks, so students can build contraptions and inventions over the top of the robot.
While there is a bit of a learning curve with the Meet Edison robots, they’re an overall good pick if you’re looking for a kit that’s meant for young beginners, can take a bit of a beating, yet is user-friendly and affordable for teachers and non-technical instructors.
10. For Drone Lovers: Ryze Tech Tello Drone
When it comes to the perfect balance of fun and learning, the Ryze Tech Tello Boost Combo stands out prominently. Now just like the Meet Edison Robot, I’d recommend this option if your group of students is over 10. That’s because these robots have an inherent “cool” factor, plus more enriching coding options for older students.
One of the standout features of the Tello Boost Combo is its compatibility with programming tools like Xcode and Scratch. This isn’t just a drone to fly; it’s a learning platform.
With a dedicated programming app that supports Scratch, users can effortlessly drag coding blocks to command the drone. For those venturing into the world of coding and technology, this feature adds immense value, especially if you’re a fan of drones.
Beyond its programming capabilities, the Tello shines brightly with its imaging prowess. Equipped with a high-quality image processor, this drone is designed to capture the world beautifully. The 5MP camera delivers pretty good photos (for the price point), while its HD720 video capabilities ensure that users can capture video if they please.
Drones are often seen as mere toys or professional tools — however, the Ryze Tech Tello Boost Combo bridges this gap. It offers a platform for learning, a means for creativity, and, above all, a source of pure, unadulterated fun. For students and hobbyists alike, this drone might just be the perfect introduction to both the worlds of flying and coding. Get yours here.
Summary: There are Many Alternatives to Lego Mindstorms
Lego Mindstorms is a very popular kit. Many people start with Lego Mindstorms because easy to teach and widely recognized. However, if you’re looking for alternatives to Lego Mindstorms, then you’re in the right place. Lego Mindstorms is here to stay — and frankly serves the purpose of helping beginners get their start by mixing “Legos” with “Robotics.”
After you outgrow Lego Mindstorms and are serious about pursuing robotics engineering projects, there are stronger alternatives out there that you can use to get ahead in the 2020s.
While many of these kits are fundamentally similar, the ultimate decision will come down to budget, activities, and age group. When it comes to robotics, you usually get what you pay for.
By sacrificing for “cheap” kits, usually, the instructions are difficult to read and the parts break easily. When you invest in a robotics kit that is made with premium parts, you can reuse the parts in future robotics projects. Typically when you spend more on a robotics kit, the company can afford to spend more time curating code repositories so that you have starter institutions and can hit the ground running. This reduces frustration and can significantly improve the robotics learning experience.
Liz’s Verdict on the Top 3 Lego Mindstorm Alternatives:
- For total beginners looking for their next kit after Lego Mindstorms, choose the Robotics Arm.
- For Intermediate learners, I’d choose the Yahboom Jetson Nano ROS kit.
- For more advanced learners, go with Rosmaster X3.
As technology changes, choosing a kit you can “grow into” is paramount.
If you’re investing in robotics, you’re investing directly in your future. These alternatives are designed to set you up for long-term success by learning the latest technologies in robotics heading into 2024 and beyond.
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