Step 2: Ozobot Evo – Manual Control

By Cody Sandahl President of Code4Kids

This article is part of our “Get Coding” series.

Imagine that you are in sales. In fact, let’s say you sell cars. And let’s imagine that you are pretty good at selling cars. You understand the market. You understand the customer.

Now I want you, salesperson that you are, to go sell boats. Are you ready? And once you’ve sold a few boats, I need you to go run a pawn shop because there’s a lot of selling there, too. Sound good?

It is hard to take what you know and transfer it to another area – even if it’s related. A good car salesperson couldĀ learn to sell boats, but it would take some work. This can be especially difficult for elementary and middle school kids. Many abstract thought patterns aren’t ready in the brain until the teenage years (link to research). So whenever a child learns a skill in one area (like learning the basics of programming with Lightbot), it is very difficult to take that knowledge to another area (like programming the Ozobot Evo or any other task outside of Lightbot).

That’s why it’s best to start at the very beginning with the Evo – learning how to control it manually with a phone or tablet. Once your kid gets a feel for what the robot can do (which is fun all on its own, by the way), they’ll be more equipped to program the Evo with stickers and the Blockly visual programming language later. That’s also why we are developing exercises for the Evo that mimic the various levels of Lightbot. It should be easier to transfer knowledge if the challenge looks and feels the same.

Without further ado, let’s get started! If your kid comes to the Summer Code Academy, they’ll go home with an Evo. But for everyone else, feel free to pick up an Evo from Ozobot’s store or at Amazon.

Unpacking the Evo…and Juicing Up!

The Evo comes in a very nice package, although it can be a little difficult to get the actual robot out of the top case. For now, all you need to pull out are

  • The Evo itself
  • Micro-USB cable

You can leave everything else inside the box for now. First off, let’s make sure the Evo is charged up. Some of the time it will come out of the box with a decent amount of charge, but better to be safe than sorry! Just like on many phones, there is a small charging port on the back of the Evo. Plug in the smaller end of the Micro-USB cable to the Evo. Then find a phone or tablet wall charger, unplug the cable that is currently plugged into it, and then plug in the Evo’s cable. It will start flashing slowly to indicate it has started charging. When the light becomes a solid green, the Evo is ready to rock and roll! Depending on the charger you’re using, this could take 30 minutes or more, so plan ahead.

It’s not 100% clear where the power button is. If you are looking at the back of the Evo (where the charging port is), the Power button is the large-ish circular button on the left side of the Evo. Picture the left ear when looking at the back of someone’s head, and you’ll find it right away. Given the quirks of getting started, here’s a little photo gallery to get you out of the gates.

Installing the App and Connecting to the Evo

The Evo can be controlled manually through an app. Grab your phone or tablet and head over to the Ozobot website to get the links to the latest apps. It should work on most iOS and Android devices. Once you’ve installed the app, turn on your Evo and fire up the app.

One quick note here. The app will ask you to create an account. You don’t have to, but it will continue to mildly remind you to do so if you choose not to create an account. There are a few advantages to creating an account. Most importantly, having an Ozobot account will allow you to program your Evo directly from your phone or tablet with the Blockly visual programming language later. Without an account you have to use your desktop or laptop to program it. Second, having an account allows you to “claim” the Evo so no one else can take control of it. That only comes into play if you’re with other families who have Evo’s or in the case of theft, but it’s still nice.

When you have the app loaded and the Evo turned on, the app will tell you there is an Evo nearby. You can tap on the icon of the Evo and then choose “Connect.” If you want to rename it, check for updates manually, or claim it via the “Ownership” button, just tap on the Evo icon again and click “Settings”.

There will probably be an update available for your Evo when you launch the app. Go ahead and say “Yes” to that and let it do its thing. The Ozobot team is very good about adding new features, so this is one device where an “upgrade” usually is an actual upgrade. Here’s another gallery showing you the steps to connecting the Evo to the app.

Houston…We’re Switching to Manual Control

Of course the downside to “upgrades” is that the user interface sometimes changes. The screenshots presented here were current as of December 2017. If you are going through this tutorial later and notice that things have changed significantly, let us know and we’ll try to update the tutorial.

There are three apps that are useful for getting a feel for the Evo’s basic capabilities. The first one is Drive. Click on the “Play” menu in the bottom-left corner and then select “Drive”.


Once you’re in Drive, this is the screen you should see.

If you just hand this to your kid and let them play around, they’ll probably figure out most of this themselves. Just for the sake of thoroughness, though, here are some of the options available.

At the top you will see a list of the Evo’s nearby. I’ve shown it in the “I can’t find an Evo” state just for your reference. Normally you’ll see a little picture of an Evo in that top bar. As long as that’s there, things are good. If you ever see the message like in this screen, “Please turn your Evo on” then there are three likely culprits. #1 – your Evo has turned itself off due to inactivity. Simply press the Power button to turn it back on and then wait for the app to re-connect. #2 – your Evo has run out of battery. Juice it up again! #3 – something has gone wrong with the Bluetooth connection. Sometimes I have to turn off the Evo, exit the App, turn the Evo back on, and re-launch the App. It’s annoying, but it’s pretty rare.

The red circle in the top right corner is the Record button. This will record the instructions you send to the Evo so you can recreate them later.

The next row down features some common Sounds. The Evo has the ability to make sounds and even rudimentary voices. We’ll get to the full list of sounds later, but this at least whets the appetite for what’s available.

The Evo also comes with programmable multi-color LEDs. You can play around with some built-in animations with the Light Effects options.

The speedometer near the bottom left enables you to Change Speed of the Evo while driving it. Tap the button to rev the engine a bit! Until you’re comfortable with the controls, we recommend keeping it on the default (slowest) setting.

To the far right you’ll see the Line Follow button. This toggles the line following capability of the Evo. Most of the time when you’re in Drive, you’ll keep this off. When it turns on, the Evo won’t follow your driving directions – it will be trying to follow lines on the paper beneath it.

The virtual joystick in the middle should be pretty self-explanatory. Just play around with it to get the feel.

Finally, there is a button on the right that looks like a Tic-Tac-Toe grid. This button opens up a more fine-grained lighting control.

Here you can change the color of the individual LEDs. You can turn the LEDs on and off by tapping the icon for each one. You can also choose between lighting animations here as well. One little quirk you may notice. If you are trying to change the LEDs but they aren’t responding, try clicking on any of the animations on this screen and then clicking again to turn it off. Sometimes the Evo doesn’t figure out that you’re wanting to control the lights manually, and it keeps running whatever animation you had from the previous screen.

If you really want to get fancy, you can set the LEDs to different colors. When an LED is OFF, it doesn’t get its color changed. So if you want to have the outside LEDs blue while all the others are red, you can do it this way:

  1. Make sure all the LEDs are on
  2. Drag the Color Picker to blue
  3. Click the outside LED buttons to turn them off
  4. Drag the Color Picker to Red
  5. Click the outside LED buttons to turn them back on
  6. Voila!

Let your kid just play around with it! Some ideas to make it more interesting:

  • Build a tunnel out of boxes or Legos and try to drive through it
  • Build an obstacle course and drive around it
  • Tape a small piece of cardboard to the front of the Evo as a “broom”, then place some tiny bits of crumpled paper around a table. Use the Evo to push all the trash into a designated area. (Or use the same idea but make it “soccer” instead)

As I mentioned earlier, you can find way more sounds in another section of the Evo app. The Voice and Sounds app is the second interesting area to explore. It’s all very self-explanatory, so I won’t go into it here. Just tap on the sounds and listen to your heart’s content. Here’s how to get there.


There’s FAR more to the Evo than just driving it around and listening to it communicate R2-D2 style. It has color sensors, proximity sensors, and memory. The app comes with a nice little game (our third and final interesting app) that demonstrates some of these extra capabilities. It’s called Ozolaunch, and it’s available from the Play menu (just like Drive). When you fire it up, it will give you the basic instructions.

The key to getting started with Ozolaunch is setting up the playing field. There are two ways to do this. First, there are some cardboard tiles like a puzzle inside the box for the Evo. There are two different sides, and they can be used to demonstrate various Evo capabilities. For example, if you place the Evo on the “green” side of the tiles near one of the thick black lines, then go to the Drive app and turn on “Line Following”, you’ll see the Evo do its thing.

If you want to get going as quickly as possible, use the “blue” side of the tiles because that side has larger targets for the Evo to detect. That makes it easier.

The second (and much more fun) way is to make the playing field yourself. As the instructions inside the app tell you, draw four circles (Red, Black, Blue, and Green). Conveniently, Ozobot included the markers you need inside the box!

Essentially, the larger the size of the circle, the easier it will be to get the Evo to land on it. A note here – make sure you do a good job filling in the circle so it’s a solid color. It’s a tad annoying to your children if they clearly get the Evo on the circle, but your shoddy coloring job left enough gaps to allow the Evo think it’s still not there! I may or may not be speaking from experience. You do NOT want to suffer the wrath of an indignant two-year-old šŸ™‚

You don’t actually have to use separate targets that are taped to another piece of paper (which the instructions tell you to do). You can of course just color the circles on a piece of paper directly. They tell you to make movable targets so you can constantly change the playing field. You could just get another piece of paper, too. Another advantage of the movable targets is that you can use a table or other much larger surface instead of being limited to the biggest piece of paper you have on hand. The Evo doesn’t know how big the playing surface is. It only knows if it has landed on the color it’s looking for.

One final word of caution here – if you launch the Evo with full power it will shoot WAY past a single sheet of paper. A wise person would setup a barrier to keep the Evo from skydiving off a table. A less wise person would rely on their ninja reflexes to catch the Evo before it meets an untimely demise. I wasn’t wise the first time we played this game…but I was quick!

Once the playing field is setup, it’s the classic “easy to play…hard to master”. Use the Left and Right buttons to rotate the Evo where you want it to go. Then pull down on the Shoot button to set the strength and let ‘er rip. Keep going until you’ve hit all the targets. This is golf-style scoring: lowest total wins!


The Ozobot Evo is an absolute gem! I love how much functionality they squeezed into that little dome. My absoluteĀ favorite feature, though, is the Ozobot team themselves. They keep adding new features, new options, and new add-ons, and it’s all good. This team knows what they’re doing and cares about the kids using their product, and that seems like a rare thing these days. We will continue to unpack the capabilities of the Evo with the rest of this series. But until then, keep Ozolaunching!

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