If you're looking for an inexpensive way to enter the world of DIY electronics, a Raspberry Pi is a great place to start. It's a well-built, small PC board that uses standard input and outputs for audio and video, standard USB ports, a set of simple input/output pins to connect to just about anything, and most importantly, a huge collection of accessories and a vast community of developers. This spells success whether you're building a hobby project or a prototyping something more complicated.

All ages: Kano Computer Kit

Staff Pick

A Kano Computer Kit is designed for kids to be able to build their own PC and use it to do just about anything. It's also a great way for anyone to get started with a Raspberry Pi no matter their age. Everything is included; just plug it into any display with a free HDMI input and start having fun.

$94 at Amazon

Smart Car: Sunfounder PiCar-S

Build your own robotic SmartCar with Sunfounder's PiCar kits. The PiCar-S comes with a set of sensors that can avoid obstacles, follow a line on the ground, or follow a light without any remote control needed. It's not too difficult to assemble and program, and makes for a great project.

$150 at Amazon

Taking it up a notch: ELECROW CrowPi

The CrowPi is a small attache-style case that holds a Raspberry Pi, a full-color 7-inch touch display, and a load of buttons, sensors, LEDs and a secondary Matrix display. It's a sizable step up from the Kano Computer Kit, which makes it a perfect STEM-inspired gift or a cool gadget for yourself.

$339 at Amazon

Go Retro: Vilros Raspberry Pi 3 Retro Arcade Gaming Kit

There are some great open-source arcade system images built for the Raspberry Pi, and a great kit complete with two controllers is a great way to get started with one. Everything you need except the television is in this kit, and getting started is simple. You'll be feeling the nostalgia in no time.

$80 at Amazon

Little Brother: Vilros Raspberry Pi Zero W Basic Starter Kit

The smaller and less power-hungry Raspberry Pi Zero W is the right choice for some small projects even if it's not as popular as the model 3 B+. That means finding a good starter kit is a little more challenging, but this basic kit from Vilros has what you need to get a smaller Pi Zero W running and ready for the next step.

$27 at Amazon

The Kitchen Sink: CanaKit Raspberry Pi 3 B+ Ultimate Starter Kit

CanaKit's Ultimate Starter kit is a perfect addition to any workbench or electronics lab as well as the garage or spare room. Made for hobbyists that want to go to the next level, the Raspberry Pi comes with everything needed to attach the Input and Outputs to the rest of the world and do cool things.

$90 at Amazon

Get started in DIY

You can do so much with a Raspberry Pi. Yes, you. This little PC board was designed with education in mind so it's easy to learn, fairly simple to master, and extremely powerful when used to control things like a smart home or robot. Best of all, they're incredibly inexpensive.

You'll find kits for every level of skill and out staff pick — the Kano Computer Kit — is perfect for most people who aren't quite sure where to start. Like the Pi itself, it was designed as a STEM tool for kids that have an interest in building a PC and programming, but it's a complete system for everyone that's super easy to get started with.

At the other end of the spectrum is CanaKit's Ultimate Starter Kit which includes the Pi and essentials like a power adapter and an SD card, then branches out by bundling a breadboard, jumpers, a GPIO Bridge and a handful of parts like LEDs, resistors, buttons and other tiny things you'll need if you want to do a little more than just the basics. I've used this CanaKit (or its older equivalent) several times for small projects and love having everything I need and not paying anything extra for those tiny parts.

Or just buy the PiCar and have a load of fun out in the parking lot. You know you want to.

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