The ‘Lego Education Mindstorms EV3 Programming’ App is Now Available!

Apps GeekMom
EV3 Tablet Loggy
EV3 tablet lobby. Screenshot: Maryann Goldman.

Today, I was excited to discover that the Lego Education Mindstorms EV3 Programming app is now available from the App Store for iPads with iOS 8.0 or later.

Previously, if you wanted to program the EV3 robot, you had to use a PC or Mac. That can be somewhat limiting, if you are running a class and don’t have enough PCs or Macs to go around or if your child is already used to programming with other iPad apps and enjoys the ease and flexibility of that environment. These days, it is somewhat expected that there’s an app for everything, so I’m pleased to report that the EV3 software environment has come of age.

While the Lego Education Mindstorms EV3 Programming app is available to download for free, you will be prompted for a password, which you can only get if you have purchased the Lego Education EV3 Software. If you’re like me, and you purchased the software awhile back, you can call Lego tech support at 866-349-5346 for assistance with the password. Make sure to have your order number ready.

I know it may seem expensive to buy the Lego Education EV3 Software for $99 when you can get the Lego Retail EV3 Software for free, but there are a lot of additional capabilities in the education version that I think are worth it. The software includes a Robot Educator that contains 48 step-by-step tutorials. It also provides model building instructions and programs for fascinating robots not found in the retail software. Some of the building instructions can be found in other places, but only the software has the programs. Please note that the retail EV3 31313 set, the Lego Education EV3 45544 Core Set, and the Lego Education EV3 Expansion Set contain some different Lego Technic bricks, so make sure you have the right parts to build the desired robot models. If you need more help understanding the part differences, Robot Square has a great rundown.

So, how easy was the app to install and use? Well, I had to clear some space on my iPad 2 and upgrade it to iOS 8.3, and that took me some extra time. Once the app was installed, though, I had the Bluetooth between the iPad and the EV3 Intelligent Brick talking in just a couple of minutes. The app included basic instructions on enabling Bluetooth and iPad use on the brick.

I was immediately impressed that the app screens looked very similar to the Content Editor screens of the software. Programmers that are used to programming the EV3 on the PC or Mac won’t miss a beat. I had a sample program to light up the brick LEDs orange for 5 seconds coded and running right away.

EV3 Tablet Program
EV3 tablet program. Screenshot: Maryann Goldman.

I soon noted, though, that the app did not support all the programming blocks and tabs as the full software. The action and flow control tabs and most of their programming blocks are available, but the sensor, data operations, and advanced blocks are not. You’ll be able to move the robot, make sounds, light up the LEDs, do loops, and switch logic, but you won’t be able to check sensor values, work with variables, or create my blocks… at least not yet. It’s a good start, but if you are a sophisticated EV3 programmer, you won’t be able to utilize all the programming options available in the regular EV3 software.

The app does have some extra features that some users will find helpful. For instance, it currently incorporates some of the Robot Educator tutorials. You can learn how to program the robot to follow a line or stop at an object. You’ll also find Teacher Support including tips and tricks on how to teach EV3 and an Introduction to Robotics Lesson Plan. Great stuff!

Another issue that bothers me is that I don’t see a way to share my program. I can download it to the attached brick, but I can’t send it to another user. In my FIRST Lego League class, we write programs on several computers, and we’re used to saving and sharing the programs, .ev3 files, on Google Drive. If another user wants to take my program and modify it on another iPad or a PC/Mac, how are they going to do that? There is an option in the PC/Mac software for doing an Import Brick Program, but it’s only for importing programs written on the brick itself. I tried to import the program I downloaded to the brick from my iPad with no luck.

As I said, I’m thrilled that the there’s an app for EV3 programming now. It only took me a few minutes to set up, and since I had already purchased the Lego Education EV3 Software, I didn’t have to invest any additional money. I am sure that we will use the Lego Education Mindstorms EV3 Programming app in our upcoming FIRST Lego League season. It’s a great start to programming the EV3 on a tablet. However, if you only have the Lego Retail EV3 Software, you’ll have to decide if the tablet app is worth the additional investment of buying the Education Software. Or, if you need to code sophisticated EV3 programs, the app may not be robust enough for your needs. Hopefully Lego will continue to invest in updating the app and making it as powerful as the regular software.

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15 thoughts on “The ‘Lego Education Mindstorms EV3 Programming’ App is Now Available!

  1. Just FYI, from the lobby, you can tap on the share icon in the top right (the three dots connected by two line segments), and then share your ev3 program via any standard sharing mechanism – email, dropbox, drive, airdrop, etc.

    1. Thanks for the tip, Nick! I gave it a try and was able to bring up a tablet-created program on my desktop after e-mailing it over. I missed the share option because I was looking inside the program itself and not on the lobby.

      1. Hi Maryann, I’m Sr. MINDSTORMS Marketing Manager in LEGO Education and part of the development team behind the new EV3 app (which Nick was also part of). Thanks for sharing your initial experience and thoughts regarding the app. I’m pleased to hear that you find the app both intuitive and relevant to use even though it does not have full functionality compared to the EV3 desktop software.
        I have an additional comment to what Nick writes regarding sharing programs. Please note that you cannot send programs made in the desktop EV3 software to the iPad app – it only works the other way round (from iPad to desktop).

        1. One more question to Peter – if I’m planning to have full classroom with 8 or 10 EV3, will it be possible to pair each EV3 with separate iPad or I will run into the problem of too many bluetooth devices in the same room?

          1. It should not be a problem to have 10 or more EV3 robots connected to seperate iPads at the same time. During testing we have never experienced any problems with too many bluetooth devices/connections inside the same room. A tip: Ensure you have given the EV3 Bricks individual names BEFORE your class starts connecting. Otherwise, students will not know if they pair with the correct EV3 robot since all EV3 Bricks have the same default name (EV3). You can change name from inside the app (on the Hardware Page) or directly on the EV3 Brick display under Settings if the EV3 Bricks are updated with the latest firmware version 1.07E (can be updated through the EV3 desktop software version). Good luck

          2. Thanks Peter, sounds great!
            My last question – will the iPads work with our existing license “LME EV3 Software Site Lego” or we will have to purchase separate licenses for each iPad?

          3. The EV3 Programming app is part of the LME EV3 Software package and hence your existing license also covers the app

          4. Hi Peter, I had one question. To use the iPad app on multiple iPads, say 5, do I need to purchase the LME EV3 single license or the site license? Thank you!

          5. Hi Kristopher, you will need to purchase the LME EV3 sw SITE license. Please note that this license covers both the app and desktop version. So once purchased, you can use both app and desktop sw on as many devices you wish (within the school/institution)

  2. Will Lego continue investing in the iPad app to eventually include sensors and data blocks etc. Tablets are pretty much prevalent in the schools whereas getting students access to desktop class machines is a challenge. If this is not a focus, I’d like to have some inkling now before I recommend a path that would eventually be a dead end. In this case ‘no comment’ would be equivalent to a ‘no’ for the future. Understand it takes time to roll these capabilities out but knowing the product direction would make it easier to make a recommendation.

    1. This reply is a little late, however you can make use of sensors on the iPad app by using them in the orange flow control blocks – eg the timer block can be made to depend on a sensor instead of time, the loop block can loop until a sensor reaches some state, etc.

  3. Is there any way to import a program from one iOS app to another? My son installed both the regular and Education apps and they’re taking up a ton of space on our shared 16gb iPad. I have backed the program up to iCloud, but I don’t see any way to import it in either app. Thanks much!

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