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9 affordable Arduino-powered robot kits

Need a cool gift idea? Hankering to build a robot army? These Arduino-powered robotics kits are affordable, expandable, and the perfect way to learn robotics OR conquer your enemies.
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1 of 9 Pololu

3pi by Pololu - $99.95

The Pololu 3pi robot is a complete, high-performance mobile platform featuring two micro metal gearmotors, five reflectance sensors, an 8×2 character LCD, a buzzer, and three user pushbuttons, all connected to a C-programmable ATmega328 microcontroller. It's pretty fast for a build-at-home robot, with speeds exceeding 3 feet per second. This is a great first robot for ambitious beginners and a perfect second robot for those looking to move up from non-programmable or slower beginner robots.

If you've been hoping to learn C or want to put your skills to work, this is a great option.

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2 of 9 Budget Robotics

ArdBot by Budget Robotics - $18.95 (chassis only)

The photo is an ArdBot fully configured with feeler bumpers, line-following sensors, infrared proximity sensor, and ultrasonic distance ranger. A while back SERVO Magazine did a great series on this expandable bot, offering step-by-step guidance.

Assembles in under 15 minutes. Just add your own servos, wheels, Arduino microcontroller, and other electronics. The double-decker ArdBot measures 7" in diameter, and is made of 1/4" expanded PVC plastic. Plenty of room to grow, with over 60 square inches of usable mounting space (or add a third deck for another 30+ square inches).

Expansion is kind of the point, right?

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3 of 9 Greg Nichols/ZDNET

HackaBot Nano - $199

Hackabot Nano is the priciest kit in this roundup, but for good reason. It's a compact many-in-one plug-and-play Arduino Robot. The goal is to help everyone build a feature-rich robot without all the messy wiring. You simply connect the motors, plug in the sensors and controller and start programming. It's a good looker, too.

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4 of 9 Hackaday

MeArm - $49.97

Just add an Arduino or other controller and you have a fully functioning mini factory robotic arm! Open source code is available for Arduino, Beaglebone Black, and Raspberry Pi. The MeArm kit comes with 4 hobby servos and everything needed for assembly. The arm can reach out about seven inches.

The simple Arduino sketch included in the kit will drive the robot using individual servo controls. It looks like a fun bot for learning and playing with robotic controls in particular, as joints in series produce some complex motion.

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5 of 9 Greg Nichols/ZDNET

Robotic Kit from oddWires - $79.95

The robotics kit from oddWires is a cost-effective learning platform built around a chassis kit with two driven wheels and a castor wheel. It includes an Arduino Uno R3, motor shield, two geared DC motors, a servo and ultrasonic sensor, and items for further prototyping. It's specifically designed to build an obstacle-avoiding autonomous robot, but the kit is extensible and the chassis has options for mounting additional sensors and actuators.

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6 of 9 Pololu

Zumo by Pololu - $99.95

The Zumo robot for Arduino is an Arduino-controllable tracked robot platform that is less than 10 cm × 10 cm. It includes two micro metal gearmotors coupled to a pair of silicone tracks, a stainless steel bulldozer-style blade, an array of six infrared reflectance sensors for line following or edge detection, a buzzer for simple sounds and music, a 3-axis accelerometer, magnetometer, and gyro for detecting impacts and tracking orientation. Just add 4 AA batteries and an Arduino (or compatible controller) and you are ready to push! No soldering or assembly is required.

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7 of 9 Arduino

The Official Arduino Robot - $189.49

Why not be official? The official Arduino Robot is a great way to learn about electronics, mechanics, and programming with no soldering required. It's a tiny computer on wheels that you can hack to perform all sorts of tasks. Just pop in the included color LCD screen, load up the Arduino IDE, plug in the USB cable, and you'll be ready to load any one of the included example programs. The robot comes with a number of integrated inputs, two potentiometers, five buttons, a digital compass, five floor sensors, and an SD card reader. It also has a speaker, two motors, and a color screen as outputs, and plenty of prototyping space and TinkerKit connectors for expansion. It even includes 4 rechargeable AA batteries and a charger.

The "brains" of the robot consists of two ATmega32u4 microcontrollers. If you're just getting started with electronics and programming, you should work with the Control Board. As you become more experienced, you may want to tinker with the Motor Board.

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8 of 9 Maker Shed

Sparki by Arcbotics - $149.99

Think robots are complicated? Think again. Sparki is ready to roll right out of the box. The included remote control gives you instant command over Sparki, and when you're ready to take it to the next level, load up the custom-enhanced Arduino software and choose from dozens of sample programs. Or write your own and upload them through the USB port.

Sparki comes with a Bluetooth module, an array of onboard sensors (light, ultrasonic distance, acceleration, and more), and precise stepper motors. Sparki even has a motorized gripper - rare for robots at this price point. This special edition has been cast in "Maker Blue."

Sparki is a really impressive full-featured robot that can grow as your understanding of robotics and Arduino programming grows.Recommended for middle school ages and above or anyone who's ready to dive into educational or hobby robotics.

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9 of 9 MonoPrice

Starter Robot IR Version - Intermediate - $99.99

Easily the best looking of the bunch, this kit is a great choice for learning robotics, electronics, and Arduino programming. It contains mechanical parts and electronic modules for you to start exploring the robot world and can be used to build a robot tank or three-wheel robot car. This is the IR version, which includes the following electronic modules: Me Orion, ultrasonic sensor, IR remote controller and IR receiver. The Me series electronic modules are easy-to-use and very friendly to beginners.

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