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One robot that has remained at the top of the STEM education related robotic list is the Ozobot. The plucky robot is smaller than a tangerine but smarter than an apple. The newest iteration is the Ozobot Evo, and although it looks identical to the original, it packs way more brains.
The manufacturer has placed a high priority on making the Ozobot Evo accessible to parents and educators. The robot is small, relatively affordable and easy to use. The Ozobot Evo catches on to the “learn to code” trend with an introduction to app-enabled programming. At the same time, Evo doesn’t leave the original, device-less features behind; like the original Ozobot, you can draw lines on paper and programs Evo via color codes.
Unboxing the OZOBOT Evo
The Ozobot Evo is packaged in a cardboard box that opens like a space pod. Inside there are little drawers with lots of pieces including a rubberized suit called an OxoSkin, like a space suit. There are markers, and also a little pouch to carry Evo. You also get the Quick Start Guide, the Evo Experience Pack, which may ship separate, the Playfield which is the game board and the USB charging cable.
Coding through play
The typical diversity with these kid-friendly robots is that they teach the basics of computer programming through play. Ozobot Evo accomplishes exactly this with its interactive game board and app. Like a game of Monopoly, the game board is the playing field for the game pieces. In this case, the game board is riddled with abstract lines and colors that Evo “sees” as code with its sensors. Evo will follow lines and react to certain colors and combinations.
The real fun (and learning) comes by creating your own code for Evo. And there are two ways you can do this; color or app-based. Markers included with the set let kids draw mazes and doodles for Evo to follow. For example, the robot will stick to a black line but blink if it crosses a combination of red, green, and blue. Ozobots has put together a whole list of these color codes; you can match them to create full-fledged programs.
Stepping the game up a notch, there is Ozobot Evo App and OzoBlockly. The app can remotely control Evo with virtual joysticks; colors for the robot’s front-facing LED lights can also be set.
Note: to code with OzoBlockly you need a tablet, or a smartphone, and a laptop.
OzoBlockly is a web application that works in conjunction with the Ozobot Evo App. Via the OzoBlockly website, interactive blocks of code can be dragged to create programs for Evo.
The warning with Evo and Ozoblockly is that both a smartphone and a laptop are required. You run the app in your smartphone but program in a web browser on a laptop. When you’re done programming, a code is sent to the app which is then sent to Evo. A bit tedious but not a deal breaker.
Charging Evo is simple, I just used the charger and plugged one end into Evo and the other USB end into my laptop. It took about 15 minutes, flashing red while it charged and green when it was done.
To get Evo to chat you need to push his power button, which is a clear button on his side, and best activated by squeezing him on both sides. All his lights turned on, blue, green and pink, and he started moving and making noise. I found that a little overwhelming, and since the directions on the box are very vague, I realized I would have to actually read the instructions.
That turned out to be a good decision because you’re supposed to calibrate Evo before you start getting him to move. If you want him to roll along his Playfield, you hold the button until he flashes a white LED light, then put him on one of the black circles. If he flashes blue, that’s good. Red means you have to do this again.
You can also draw your own Playfield with the markers. For Evo to roll along that, you need to draw a black dot with the marker, and then calibrate the robot on your own dot. Once you’ve decided, and calibrated your robot, you can start playing.
I put Evo (in his space suit) on a red dot on the Playfield. Sometimes he would blink different colors—I don’t know why—and sometimes he would just roll along. He twirled in a circle, would follow a line, stop when he got the end, and appear to look for other lines to follow. If I put my hand down in his path, he would stop until I lifted my hand. This also happens when Evo gets to the edge of the Playfield. This was fun, but since I had two I wanted to see how they interacted.
I had some trouble getting the little space suit on my second Evo, and another second to find the button again. But once activated, the robot started immediately talking. When they first saw each other, they made a strange humming sound. They did this each time they would meet.
On the floor, the activity was a bit more interesting. Evo is a little bit like my dog that wants you to move out of their way, or get something for them they dropped on the floor. Evo would roll along until he came to an obstacle. And then he would stop, flash the lights and hum again for a while until you moved him, or the object is in his way.
So I decided to download the app for some more fun. And I’m glad I did. The Evo App works for both iOS and Android devices. It loads very quickly and lets you really control Evo. You can manually drive the robot, name him, and make sounds including snore, laugh, poke and one called “huh?” You can also change the lighting patterns from a rainbow to ones you create yourself. I like the rainbow colors.
Also great? Changing the speed Evo moves along the floor. Before launching the app, I found the robot to be fairly slow. But I instantly upped his speed and felt the little guy moved more quickly—which makes him much more fun. I ran the two along the floor and was able to see from the app when their batteries were running low.
Because you can program Evo to make the sounds you’d like and go where you want to go, it’s a bit like programming. For younger kids, this is a good first way for them to learn the basics of coding. The robots use something the company calls OzoBlocky language.
You can also connect to your friends if they have Evos as well, sending messages through the app. None of my friends have an Evo right now, so I couldn’t try this.
One thing I wish I could see from the app was if the Evo was wearing its suit or not. I also would have liked to be able to customize the avatar for my Evo inside the app. But those were small points.
Lots of Technology
Evo is undoubtedly packing more tech than its 2.0 and Bit predecessors (see my review on Ozobot Bit 2.0). Infrared sensors on the front and the back instantly detect objects, prompting Evo to halt. An internal speaker gives voice to Evo’s character, beeps, boops, and buzzes obnoxiously sound off. It’s a nifty feature hearing Evo react to its environment, but the sound effects are a little too repetitive. After powering on, calibrating, and programming Evo, I wish the sound effects would mute a little. Perhaps children would find Evo’s tunes more amusing. Battery life on Evo is about one hour on a single charge. The robots require Bluetooth connection to your smart device (if you’re using the app), so it’s handy to have a charger nearby. You can charge Evo using the included USB cord.
More Features A nifty feature of Evo is multi-bot networking. Within the Ozobot Evo app, users can connect and send messages to other Evo robots worldwide.
Lesson plans and activities can be downloaded from obozot.com; sample codes are also available on ozoblockly.com
Ozobot Evo is a relatively affordable robot with a mission to teach children code. Its ability to be programmed with or without a smart device makes it truly stand out from the crowd.
The tangerine-sized robot features a compact and durable design. However, it does require a computer and smartphone simultaneously for drag-and-drop programming. The Obozot Evo is designed for children 6 years and up.
There are also skins available to add style to your Evo, including Captain America, and
Iron Man themes.
For a quick video overview of the Ozobot Evo click here.
Get the Ozobot Evo and all the accessories at the lowest price here.
I hope you have enjoyed this review and if you have any questions about the Ozobot Evo or any of its accessories, or if you want to leave your own personal review, please leave a comment below I will get back to you as soon as I can.