Black Mesa Labs has been using a $20 hot plate for a year now for soldering QFN ICs to PCBs. Only issue so far has been the size ( 10″x10″x3″ ) and thermal mass of the thing as it consumes precious microscope work area and unfortunately stays quite hot for 30+ minutes after a quick 4 minute reflow job. BML boards are mostly 1″x1″, so a 800W hot plate with a 6″ diameter heating surface is overkill for most jobs.
Make a robot friend with Adafruit’s CRICKIT – A Creative Robotics & Interactive Construction Kit. It’s an add-on to our popular Circuit Playground Express, FEATHER and other platforms to make and program robots with CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. Start controlling motors, servos, solenoids. You also get signal pins, capacitive touch sensors, a NeoPixel driver and amplified speaker output. It complements & extends your boards so you can still use all the goodies on the microcontroller, now you have a robotics playground as well.