Questions about building robots around a Single Board Computer (SBC) for high school students

I have questions about building robots around Single Board Computers (SBC), like the Raspberry Pi, for high school students who are interested in Robotics. I would like to assemble a kit for my daughter to experiment with, where she can construct and deconstruct models to further expand her understanding of the subject. I’d like her to be able to build a wide variety of things to explore the mechanical engineering side (since she’s expressed that as her chosen path) from simple arms to autonomous rovers.

My questions are:

  1. Am I wrong in assuming that using a SMB is better than just an arduino shield (like the uno or duo) as the backbone of the kit? I’m looking for something to really offer flexibility and ability to scale with my daughter’s needs.

  2. Is it better to buy controllers that interface directly with a SMB or through an Arduino? Or is it best to buy parts that allow for both? I’ve seen RC cars using Pi’s without the Arduinos, but those cars only powered motors and did not use input sensors or ran complex programs.

  3. If you were putting such a kit together, what would you include? Please don’t assume I’m hung up on any one particular part, although, cost is certainly a factor. We have relatives who are experts in electronics and programming, so parts requiring advanced skills in those areas will not be too much of a problem. Still, this is mostly a teaching kit.

  4. Are there sites for this topic that might be good read for my daughter?

Thank you for your time.

Jack Linde The Crazy Zonie

P.S. For those who may suggest it, yes, my daughter is involved in her school’s FRC team and is on this year’s drive team.

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