We’ve been covering STEM robots for a couple years now. One robot that has remained at the top of our list is Ozobot. The plucky robot is smaller than a tangerine but smarter than an apple. The newest iteration is Evo, and although it looks identical to the original, it packs way more brains.
California-based Evollve Inc. has placed a high priority on making Evo accessible to parents and educators — the robot is small, relatively affordable, and easy to use. 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 program Evo via color codes.
The box is larger than you’d expect for a square-inch robot. Inside you’ll find Ozobot Evo along with its game board, colored markers, rubber “space suit” skin, carrying pouch, and USB charger. I’ve gone through the ritual of keeping the box for the sake of display, though educators will need a little extra for Evollve’s classroom packs.
Code through play
The typical mantra 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. Evollve 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’s 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.
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 and dropped to create programs for Evo. It’s a lot like Scratch, the website many schools use to teach kids computer science.
The caveat with Evo and Ozoblockly is that both a smartphone and a computer are required. You run the app on your smartphone but program in a web browser on a computer. When you’re done programming, code is sent to the app which is then sent to Evo. A bit tedious but not a deal breaker.
Lots of brains
Evo is undoubtedly packing more tech than its 2.0 and Bit predecessors. Infrared sensors on the front and 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 sounds effects are all too repetitive. After powering on, calibrating, and programming Evo, I wish the sound effects would mute. Perhaps kids would find Evo’s tunes more amusing.
Battery life on Evo is about one hour on a single charge. The robot requires Bluetooth connection to your smart device (if you’re using the app), so it’s handy to have a charger nearby. You can recharge Evo using the included USB cord.
A bit more
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.
There are also skins available to add style to your Evo. Evollve and Marvel’s Ozobot Avengers are slated for launch on December 10 and include Avengers-themed skins such as Captain America and Iron Man.
In stores now
For dozens of more STEM gadgets like Ozobot Evo, check out our new web app simplebotics.io.
Ozobot Evo is a relatively affordable robot with a mission to teach kids 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.