Kid starter kit suggestions wanted

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MrSoftware

Joined Oct 29, 2013
2,200
Can anyone suggest a starter kit that has both some software and some hardware component, cool flashy stuff but not very complex, for kids?

I'm Christmas shopping for 2 nephews, middle and high school, that are showing an interest in programming and possibly hardware. They live far enough away that I only see them a couple of times a year and their Dad, while an extremely wonderful Dad, is not techie at all. So basically they're going to be on their own with this. So I'm looking for kit with maybe a LCD and some blinky lights they can manipulate using a programming language that is simpler than C. Like an arduino type thing, with snap-on shields that is programmed in BASIC or Python or something along those lines. Does anyone have suggestions?
 

BobTPH

Joined Jun 5, 2013
8,967
Can anyone suggest a starter kit that has both some software and some hardware component, cool flashy stuff but not very complex, for kids?

I'm Christmas shopping for 2 nephews, middle and high school, that are showing an interest in programming and possibly hardware. They live far enough away that I only see them a couple of times a year and their Dad, while an extremely wonderful Dad, is not techie at all. So basically they're going to be on their own with this. So I'm looking for kit with maybe a LCD and some blinky lights they can manipulate using a programming language that is simpler than C. Like an arduino type thing, with snap-on shields that is programmed in BASIC or Python or something along those lines. Does anyone have suggestions?
I would stick with Arduino due to the large number of supported add-ons and libraries.

Dad, while an extremely wonderful Dad, is not techie at all. So basically they're going to be on their own with this.
Most people have two parents.
 

Ya’akov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
9,165
I would recommend the Grove Beginner Kit for Arudino. It‘s made by Seeed Studio (and available from Amazon for just a bit more than 30 bucks). It uses their proprietary but common Grove connector—a 4-pin connector that has \( \mathsf{V}_{CC} \), GND, and I²C. It also has access to GPIO, to you don’t have to use the Grove connectors. But they make many projects plug and play. There is just about any sensor you could want with the grove connector on it, and the included development board has a bunch of connectors.

1702041832788.jpeg

It includes a course—either online HTML (you can see it at the link) or downloadable PDF. It includes instructions on installing the Arduino IDE, and incrementally complex projects with step-by-step instructions.

One cool feature is the various sensors boards and the dev board can be left in the PCB they arrive in and if you do that there are wire-free projects because there are traces connecting the module to the dev board. But they can also be broken out and used elsewhere so when it comes time that they want to build their own projects, all the modules remain useful.

Seeed Studio has a lot of very good products including the Xiao super small dev boards (among quite a few) which are brilliant, and a lot of breakout boards for various peripherals. Their documentation is in good, readable English and you can buy from Amazon, AliExpress, or Direct.

I think this kit has just the right level of hardware abstraction to allow them to focus on programming without wondering whether problems are hardware or software. Lots of help online—it’s very mainstream. The clearest thing I can say is “I would buy this in your situation”.

I hope whatever you get is the start of a lifelong interest in engineering of some kind.
 

BobTPH

Joined Jun 5, 2013
8,967
Arduino also would have far more support (forums, tutorials, etc) than any other platform you choose. It is likely there a teacher, or other students at their school who are familiar with Arduino.
 

Ya’akov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
9,165
Arduino also would have far more support (forums, tutorials, etc) than any other platform you choose. It is likely there a teacher, or other students at their school who are familiar with Arduino.
Grove is extremely compatible with the Arduino IDE, it is designed for education, and Seeed contributes the board definitions and libraries when needed. It uses the same programming language and the same libraries for any common parts.

So it is, for the current purpose, an ”Arduino”.

Additionally, it can be used exactly like an Arduino-branded board or clone if desired, but also has the improved wiring. Seeed Studio produces a ton of tutorials and other material, and the communities around their products are robust.
 
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