STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and math, is an increasingly popular area of study. Budding makers are able to explore DIY topic areas ranging from coding with Scratch and other beginner-friendly programming languages to getting hands-on with maker boards and microcontrollers. But you'll need the right tools for the job. Check out the best STEM kits for all ages!
The Seeed Studio Grove Beginner Kit for Arduino is an outstanding all-in-one STEM educational kit. You'll find an Arduino UNO-compatible microcontroller that works with the Arduino IDE (integrated development environment). Onboard, the Grove Beginner Kit packs 10 different modules and sensors including an air pressure sensor, 3-axis accelerometer, sound sensor, light sensor, rotary potentiometer, LED, buzzer, and OLED display. Each of the Arduino accessories comes pre-connected so there's no wiring, breadboarding, or soldering involved. However, you can break out the different components and instead connect them to the microcontroller using cables.
Boasting Seeed Studio's Grove connectors, the Grove Beginner Kit for Arduino utilizes DuPont-style plugs. As such, hooking up sensors and modules is simple plug-and-play. While the Grove Beginner Kit is great for young makers, it's a good choice for prototyping as well. In my testing, I liked the ease of use that comes with pre-connected Arduino accessories, the 12 included starter tutorials, and Grove system connectors. If your child wants to get started with Arduino, the Grove Beginner Kit is a good STEM educational bundle. Overall, the Seeed Studio Grove Beginner Kit for Arduino is the best overall STEM learning kit for all ages, and a solid prototyping kit as well.
- Easy-to-use, solderless design
- Arduino UNO microcontroller
- 10 x connectors (air pressure sensor, 3-axis accelerometer, sound sensor, light sensor, rotary potentiometer, LED, buzzer, and OLED display)
- 12 x starter tutorials with sample code
- Affordable pricing
- Great for prototyping
- Uses Seeed Studio Grove system connectors
- Doesn't teach soldering
The Raspberry Pi may not be the only single-board computer (SBC) on the market, but it's certainly the most popular. Available in several different variants including the Raspberry Pi 4 and Raspberry Pi Zero/Zero W, the Pi is an awesome choice for learning about maker hardware, software, and the intersection of the two spaces. The Pimoroni Raspberry Pi Zero W Starter Kit comes with everything you need to get started with the Pi Zero W. Inside, you'll find a microSD card pre-loaded with a Pi Zero W-compatible operating system, a Pibow Zero W case, and Blinkt! multicolor LED strips. As such, aspiring programmers can learn basic Python coding.
When compared with the Raspberry Pi 4, the Pi Zero W is a bit underpowered. Unlike the Pi 4, you won't be able to use the RasPi Zero W as a desktop replacement for instance. For more demanding applications, you might consider a Raspberry Pi 4 starter kit instead. Nevertheless, the Raspberry Pi Zero is incredibly versatile, and capable of projects ranging from a Kodi-based home theatre PC (HTPC) or retro gaming console to smart home devices and programming terminals. But for STEM learning, the Pi Zero W is an ultra-affordable option that won't break the bank and will provide hours upon hours of educational entertainment.
- Includes Raspberry Pi Zero W board, microSD card pre-loaded with an operating system (OS), Blinkt! multicolor LEDs, Pibow case, and more
- Easy to use
- Versatile - lots of project potential
- Many different Raspberry Pi Zero W tutorials available
- Great for makers of all ages
- Can learn programming with Python
- Not as powerful as the Raspberry Pi 4
Best STEM Learning Kit for Coding and Programming - Adafruit CircuitPython Starter Kit with ItsyBitsy M4
The aptly-named CircuitPython is a Python-based programming language designed to run specifically on low-cost microcontroller units (MCUs). It's simple to learn, and one of the best beginner-friendly programming languages for young coders. Adafruit's CircuitPython starter kit with the Itsy Bitsy M4 is an excellent choice for teaching programming to budding coders. The ItsyBitsy M4 features a fast ATSAMD51 Cortex M4 processor running at 120 MHz and tons of inputs/outputs ranging from GPIO (general purpose input/output) pins, analog inputs and outputs, plus more. There's plenty of memory with 192KB of RAM and 512KB of flash for programming with CircuitPython and handling connected components. The ItsyBitsy does require some soldering. Therefore, younger users will need either soldering supervision or adult help. However, it presents a wonderful opportunity to learn about soldering, an essential maker skill.
- Includes ItsyBitsy M4 MCU, case, cables, pins, LEDs, and more
- Designed for use with the CircuitPython programming language
- Great for learning to code
- Basic soldering required
What's more fun than gaming? Gaming that's educational! The Adafruit PyGamer is a portable, handheld, open-source retro gaming console. With the PyGamer, you can run MakeCode Arcade, CircuitPython, and Arduino games that you've written yourself. Not only is the PyGamer an awesome little device that teaches you about maker hardware, but it's perfect for learning about game development too. The PyGamer is a neat option for emulation and retro gaming enthusiasts.
It's powered by an ATSAMD51 chip and comes with 512KB of flash as well as 192KB of RAM. Its 1.8" 160x128 color TFT display features a dimmable backlight. You'll find a menu and select button as well as two fire/action buttons alongside five NeoPixel LEDs. There's a 3-axis accelerometer, Feather-compatible header, and three STEMMA connectors. A LiPoly battery can easily power the PyGamer. If you're mostly into playing games and want to run more advanced retro gaming ROMs from the Nintendo 64 or PlayStation 1, the PyGamer isn't for you. Instead, the RetroFlag GPi, Odroid Go Advance, or another more powerful handheld retro gaming system is a better choice. Despite its modest processor, the PyGamer is a nifty open-source, handheld retro gaming emulation device.
- Runs MakeCode, Arduino, and CircuitPython games
- Great I/O - ATSAMD51 chip, 512KB of flash, 192KB of RAM, dimmable 1.8" 160x128 color TFT display, menu/select and fire/action buttons, 5 x NeoPixel LEDs, 3-axis accelerometer, Feather-compatible header, 3 x STEMMA connectors
- Portable, handheld, LiPoly battery-operated
- Great for learning about basic game development
- Not the strongest processor
DFRobot makes an excellent Arduino beginner kit. Included is an Arduino UNO R3 microcontroller and 20 different components as well as 15 project flash cards. As such, the DFRobot Arduino starter kit offers a jumping-off point with well-documented projects. Bundled Arduino accessories include jumper wires, double resistors, LEDs, 9g servos, IR remote transmitters, relays, motors, fans, potentiometers, and more. There's virtually limitless learning potential, and this is a kit that scales as your Arduino skills blossom. There's even a Wiki available to supplement the included cards. Ultimately, it's a good kit with untapped learning potential.
- Arduino Uno Rev3 MCU
- Includes tons of accessories - jumper wires, double resistors, LEDs, 9g servos, IR remote transmitters, relays, motors, fans, potentiometers, and more
- 15 x project flashcards included
- Excellent organization and sturdy case included
The SparkFun Tinker Kit (STK) is a fabulous means of getting hands-on with hardware and programming using an Arduino. You'll get everything you need to start, well, tinkering with the Arduino platform. There are 11 circuits to learn Arduino basics like blinking an LED, driving servo motors, reading sensors, and more. The SparkFun Tinker Kit is an excellent kit for budding DIYers that have little to no programming experience. Project documentation is simple to follow. Jam-packed with beginner-friendly Arduino projects, the SparkFun STK is a wonderful introduction to Arduino programming. It may feel a bit basic to advanced and intermediate Arduino buffs, but it's a great choice for newcomers to the Arduino platform.
- Includes Arduino MCU and accessories such as jumper cables, LEDs, servo motors, sensors, and more
- Features easy-to-follow projects like blinking an LED or driving servo motors
- Included projects may be too basic for some intermediate and advanced users
The DFRobot Gravity Arduino Starter Kit sports plug-and-play electronics simplicity. Included is an Arduino UNO R3 microcontroller alongside 12 different sensors and components. The I/O expansion shield that comes standard lets you connect sensors directly to the Arduino board itself, eschewing jumper cables or breadboards.
As the name suggests, the included sensors are part of DFRobot's popular Gravity Sensors. These open-source components are simple, plug-and-play with no soldering. Color-coded pin headers are used to represent pin properties. While 12 accessories are included, there are over 250 different DFRobot Gravity sensors and modules available. There are 10 included tutorials ranging from an overview of an Arduino to blinking an LED and creating a light regulator. Notably, the DFRobot Arduino Gravity Starter Kit is awesome for prototyping, making it one of the best STEM kits for adults.
- Uses DFRobot's plug-and-play Gravity system
- Includes an Arduino UNO R3 MCU and 12 x sensors/components as well as an I/O expansion shield
- Good value
- Easy to use
- Great for prototyping
- Fantastic documentation with 10 starter tutorials
- Could be more included tutorials
Using DIY electronics, you can easily create robotics. And while there are tons of robotics kits, the SparkFun Micro:bot is the best STEM educational kit for robotics building. The cleverly-named Micro:bit from SparkFun is powered by a BBC micro:bit. All required components to make a robotic device are included. However, the SparkFun Micro:bot doesn't include the micro:bit MCU itself. As such, you'll need to purchase a BBC micro:bit separately. Thankfully, the micro:bit is cheap enough. Still, it would be nice if the Micro:bot included everything necessary to make a do-it-yourself robot. In spite of this minor inconvenience, it's a good choice for at-home robotics making.
- Micro:bit-powered robotics
- Includes all parts and pieces such as wheels, jumper cables, and more
- Easy to build and program
- BBC micro:bit is required but not included
DFRobot's 4-soldering zoo kit is fun and educational. It's a DIY soldering kit that teaches the fundamentals of circuits and soldering. By soldering an LED and battery box onto the back of a zoo animal to begin. The kit features six pre-cut animal PCBs, six LEDs, six battery insulation pull tabs, six battery holders, six CR1220 3V coin batteries, and six double-sided sticky tapes. All six of the animal PCBs are different including a llama, panda, lion, bunny, sheep, and giraffe. This kit is a cute introduction to soldering and circuitry. A soldering iron isn't included, so you'll need one of your own. Because soldering is involved, adult supervision is definitely required. And despite the aesthetic that's aimed at youngsters, since it's a soldering kit, this is a bit more advanced than other STEM projects aimed at a young demographic. Nevertheless, learning soldering at an early age in a safe environment is a great opportunity.
- Introductory soldering kit
- Includes 6 x pre-cut animal PCBs, 6 x LEDs, 6 x battery insulation pull tabs, 6 x battery holders, 6 x CR1220 3V coin batteries, and 6 x double-sided sticky tapes
- Excellent beginner-friendly look at soldering and circuitry
- Soldering can be tricky for young children
- No soldering iron included
Best DIY Wearable STEM Kit - Bearables and Bearables Fox
Pimoroni's Bearables and Bearables Fox are fantastic exploratory STEM toys. Offering the opportunity to make a wearable badge using LEDs and sensors, you can build a Bearable light-up LED badge. The badge can then be sewn into clothing and the LEDs triggered by sensors. It's available as a bear or a fox. While Pimoroni market the Bearables badge kits toward kids 8 years old and up, we think they're good for adults too. As a wonderful review in MagPi points out, keep the Bearables and Bearables Fox away from water. While their furry woodland creature counterparts require water to survive, electronics and water don't mix well.
- Easy to build
- Great to learn about circuitry
- Fun, stylish wearable LED badges as either a bear or a fox
- Can be sewn into clothing, but can't get wet
Best STEM Kits for All Ages - Final Thoughts
There are tons of STEM learning kits for educational and entertainment purposes. From Raspberry Pi and Arduino starter kits to robotics project packages, beginner-friendly soldering kits, and simple DIY wearables, there's a STEM kit for makers of all ages and skill levels.
Your turn: which STEM educational, entertainment, and learning kits do YOU recommend?