My first suggestion is to check out Build a Bot and related interactive tools at Science NetLinks - http://www.sciencenetlinks.com/tools.php?DocID=164
And don't miss the Science Updates, those wonderful, current podcasts that take just minutes to share with your students:
Thought-Controlled Robotics - http://www.sciencenetlinks.com/sci_update.php?DocID=213
Robot Farmers - http://www.sciencenetlinks.com/sci_update.php?DocID=230
Replicating Robots - http://www.sciencenetlinks.com/sci_update.php?DocID=269
Robotic Arm - http://www.sciencenetlinks.com/sci_update.php?DocID=271
However, a search from the Thinkfinity Search box for simply "robots" will give you 17 resources from Content Partners, ScienceNetLinks, ReadWriteThink, and Smitsonian's History Explorer. Who would have thought to move out of the obvious. Thinkfinity Search looks for resources in all of the Content Partners!
If you're interested in creating robots with your students, then Lego Mindstorms is probably the best commercial product available. It was developed out of work from the Lifelong Kindergarten Lab at MIT. There are few other products: programmable Crickets look really interesting, but I haven't used them.
A really good, completely free product is SCRATCH, also from the MIT Lifelong Kindergarten Lab. This was specifically designed to teach students the basics of computer programming and allows students to tinker.
I'd go with Scratch to teach the principles in a free, downloadable interface.
If you want to get more complex, you can buy a PicoBoard for $50 that allows the computer program to have an interface in the real world. For quite a bit more, you can buy a WeDo motor and run it from Scratch too.
Hope this helps!
If you are interested in US FIRST Robotics, the FLL (First Lego League) age group is middle school appropriate. There are many resources at http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/fll/default.aspx?id=970 or you could contact the LET'S GO program http://www.letsgoboysandgirls.com/ in Annapolis MD. This nonprofit group sets up schools and aftercare programs with step-by-step manuals that teach you how to teach kids basic robotics using Lego Mindstorm technology.
Check Physical Etoys at
Supports the Lego and many other robots.
There's a company in Southern California that does specializes in robotics for kids. They do after school STEM workshops, summer camps, even birthday parties where the kids all build robots. It's really amazing stuff.
Check out their STEM workshops here: http://rollingrobots.com/summer-camp-and-after-school-programs-rolling-robots
Here's a link to their Web site: http://rollingrobots.com/
A few people have mentioned the LEGO program above - which we are a huge fan of. However, because of the expense, we use the LEGO program with our more advanced and interested students and use paper engineering automata with our entire student body to spark the interest.
Here are some interesting sites:
Everyone has put some good information up here. The link I have above is a virtual robotics site.
You might also want to check out Tuft's http://ceeo.tufts.edu/
Additionally, Carnegie Mellon has great information and resources at http://www.ri.cmu.edu/
But wait, there's even more resources listed if you sift through: http://gk12.poly.edu/amps-cbri/# and look at the resources tab.