Using the EV3App with First Time ipads in the Classroom

ev3ipadI am one of four teachers at my middle school who are part of the ipad Digital Pilot program. What this means is that we are the guinnea pigs. Our high schools are 1:1, our middle schools will get there in a year or two, I’m here to work out the kinks. 🙂 Below is a chronicle of the first two or three days of ipad use in my Robotics’ classes with the official EV3 LEGO Mindstorms app.

This was the starting point on day 1:


And here’s a screenshot of the tweet I sent out after that day:

frustrateAs you can see I wasn’t a happy camper yesterday. I had to stay after school and download the app on each ipad one at a time. This is more a limitation of my district’s technology than it is a reflection on ipads or the EV3 app itself. I will tell you that once the app was downloaded it was a snap to type in the code and get it to start working.

On day two we spent most of our time working on pairing our ipads with the robots through bluetooth. **WARNING** Please make sure your students have changed the name of their robot before connecting.You can do this through the app, but then they are all connecting to a robot named EV3 and they’ll have to do it one at a time. If they change the names on their robots using the desktop software they can find their robot through the ipad Bluetooth settings and it’s pretty easy to connect.

I wanted to trouble shoot those who were having problems so I told the rest of them to figure out how the app worked and then to program their robot to drive around my entire classroom. This is where it got great and I accidentally deleted the video from my youtube page. 😦

What you would have seen is students walking around the class making instant connections with their robots as they followed them around the room. I was able to easily show them corrections and help with with problems as they brought their ipads to me. No more running over to desktops that are stationary.

I had time to debrief the 2nd of my two Robotics’ classes at the end and asked them what they were able to do or figure out. First responses were how easy the app was to use. “I really liked it,” was very common to hear. One student had no idea they could play music on their robot and another discovered he could record his voice and play it back. These feature are available in EV3 desktop version, but something about the app made them readily discoverable. The students were really excited.

Day 3 – Prior to deploying the iPad’s I had been on jury duty for three weeks so my classes were behind where they should be. Now that we had the iPad’s connected to theEV3s via Bluetooth and my students were somewhat aware of how to use the EV3 app, I decided to do things differently. I wrote the whole program (in my EV3 shorthand) on the whiteboard for them and challenged the classes to program the entire thing using the ipads.


They got pretty far this day and it was clear that they enjoyed the ipads and had a much quicker learning curve than if they had been on the desktops. The following video is just a quick snapshot at one period, not a well put together or edited video. But the two students I interviewed at the end are genuine in their comments and of interest I think.

One thing we learned pretty quickly is that there is no support for the NXT Sound sensor, even though this is available on the desktop/laptop version of EV3. This was a problem because we always use sound to trigger our robots. At first we tried to have everyone push the “download and run” button which works both by pushing the start icon (green arrow at the beginning of your code) or the solid arrow in the top right of the screen. We discovered that there was a little bit of a delay with some when using this method so not all robots started at the same time. Not sure why. so we went back to pushing the start button on the robot and we added a one second wait time so they wouldn’t move under the starter’s finger and possible veer off course.

The video above shows how far one group in my class got in just three days of ipad use, having never seen the EV3 app before. By the middle of the fourth day here’s where they were:

So while the class was able to be successful, what I found even cooler was the stuff they taught me and taught themselves that I would normally have to show them. One group learned to add sound to their robot. I think that by having the icons up close and personal on a device they’re all used to really helped. On the desktop they weren’t able to see or notice or recognize the sound icon. And additionally our class computers were locked down so you couldn’t use the microphone to create sound whereas with the ipads they can record their voices and play them through the robots. They also showed me how to pull down wires to do parallel programming. I hadn’t looked for this feature and would have kept trying to move icons apart to look for a wire I could pull just like you would on the desktop version of EV3, but instead it just needs a well placed tap. This was something my 13 year old students figured out before me.

Overall I’d say they ipads will be a real boon in my class. The positives are: ease of use, quick to learn, no back and forth to your computer, no USB cables. The negatives are: connecting to bluetooth is still a problem since I’m using them with multiple classes with different robots, saving and sharing programs via Google Drive is a bit difficult; with multiple accounts on one ipad you can’t log out of yours, you have to put a passkey on so others can’t get into your always open account. I didn’t know this at first. Finally the lack of sound sensor really bums me out.

Some people may bemoan the lack of advanced features, but right now I teach a 13 week exploratory course and I think we’ll be fine with just the icons we have.


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