Robot is interesting for everyone! However to learn the basics of robot is complicated and and relatively expensive. You may use, for example, LEGO Mindstorm which provides a wide range of mechanical blocks, several sensors and motors, a quite good controller, and a user-friendly graphical programming software. The only problem is its price. In Australia, its normal price is around 500 AUD. You may also create your own robot using available robotics kit and use a popular micro controller like Arduino. It will be cheaper, but it may turn down the children without previous experiences with programming and electronics, as you have to use a command line programming environment and some (simple) electronics circuits. Thus you have choices in learning robotics, simple but expensive, or cheap but somewhat complex.
This dilemma inspired Microbric, an Australian company, to create Edison robot (http://meetedison.com/). Their vision is to share electronics, robotics and programming with as many people as possible. They come up with smart design of a compact and cheap robot that enable everyone (not just the riches or the geeks) to learn robotics.
- It is only 65 AUD each, or 49 AUD each if you buy 10 of them altogether. It means that for 1 LEGO Mindstorm robot, you can buy 10 Edison robots.
- Built-in programs that can be activated by driving over barcodes
- The children do not have to program anything to see what Edison robot can do. This will encourage them to see what kind of cool things they can do with this robot.
- Wide range of sensors
- Edison robot provides light sensors, infra-red sensors (for avoid obstacle and receive signal from universal remote controller), line sensor, and sound sensor.
- Graphical programming environment
- It follows the graphical programming style of LEGO Mindstorm, so it is easier to understand for children that never do programming before.
- Compatibility with LEGO blocks
- It is compatible with LEGO blocks so the children can decorate their robots with the LEGO blocks and figures! (See my version of EdDigger robot below).
- Open source (software and learning materials)
- Its software is open source and free. Microbric also provides free books and robotics lessons which are very helpful for students (and teachers) that want to learn this robot.
Of course the Edison robot is not perfect. Its motor are not really strong and accurate. It is hard just to make it moving straightly. Its sensors ability are also bit limited and has fixed locations (unlike LEGO Mindstorm which you can out the sensors anywhere you like). It also does not have complete mechanical blocks as LEGO Mindstorms have.
With above limitations, in my personal opinion, Edison robot is still very appealing for children who want to begin to learn robotics, but only have limited budget. It is also good for them to try Edison robot first to see whether you really like robot or not, before you jump to buy an expensive kit like LEGO Mindstorm or to deal with more complex system in Arduino-based robot.