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  • Programming EV3 with Bluetooth?

    At our last team meeting, one of the kids surprised me by demonstrating how he downloads programs from his laptop to his EV3 robot, using a Bluetooth connection. No cables, no plug-in dongles, no nuthin'.

    He taught the rest how to do it, they were very excited.

    But it brings up an issue for me. Is it possible to use a Bluetooth connection to control the EV3 directly? Either from a laptop, or an iPhone, or etc.

    I recall that using an infrared sensor on your robot is disallowed in an FLL competition, since someone could theoretically sit in the stands and control the robot with it, violating the rule that the robot must be autonomous. The infrared sensor is on the "Forbidden Parts" list as a result, or it was last year.

    Might Bluetooth get forbidden during competitions too, if it can be used as a remote control?

    I've also heard that issues may arise in the Pits areas, if all the robots are connected by Bluetooth to their owners' laptops. Twenty or thirty robots all doing that in the same room, might create major interference. Does FLL have any rules about that?

    Anyway, how would they be enforced? Unlike the Infrared sensor, a Bluetooth connection to an EV3 needs no extra hardware (plug-in, dongle etc.). You can't tell if it's being done unless you turn on the EV3 and study the LCD screen, and maybe not even then.

    Anybody know?
    Lead Coach / Robot Coach
    FLL Team 15891, the Robo Sapiens
    San Diego, CA

  • #2
    Re: Programming EV3 with Bluetooth?

    Yes, it possible to use a Bluetooth connection to "remote-contol" an EV3 robot. Yes, using Bluetooth during competition is prohibited.
    From the challenge document for the previous "Trash Trek" season (section R02):

    All forms of remote control or data/info exchange with Robots including Bluetooth in the competition area are illegal.
    To enforce this rule, the referees may inspect a robot to verify that the bluetooth connection is turned off when the robot is at the competition table.

    In the pit areas, teams should use the USB cable to download programs to their EV3 when necessary.

    Outside of tournaments, teams are free to use the Bluetooth capability to download programs as much as they wish. They also free to experiment with programs that allow them to remote control an EV3. However, using remote control programs should just be for fun or to experiment with writing programs that allow devices to communicate using Bluetooth, not to solve any of the FLL mission challenges.
    Last edited by timdavid; 07-10-2016, 08:57 PM.

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    • #3
      Re: Programming EV3 with Bluetooth?

      Very good information, Timdavid, thank you!
      Lead Coach / Robot Coach
      FLL Team 15891, the Robo Sapiens
      San Diego, CA

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      • #4
        Re: Programming EV3 with Bluetooth?

        There won't be 20-30 robots with BT enabled in the pits, but even if there were it isn't a concern. BT is a robust protocol and will have no trouble handling such an insignificant amount of traffic. To mate the EV3 to a computer you need to type in a password on both devices, so nobody can hack your robot without your knowing. However I imagine some kids might find it hilarious trying to connect to other teams robot's and watching the confusion when the BT connection dialog pops up.

        When you download using USB it is obvious which robot you are programming, not so with BT. Last year there were a couple of times a program was run on the wrong robot, causing it to drive off the desk and crash to the ground. And there is the inevitable horseplay of overwriting programs when nobody is paying attention. It is good for a laugh and 20 minutes of wasted time. Eventually I banned BT usage and turned off the BT radio in all the laptops. If you only have one robot you won't have that problem.

        BT for remote control is about as useful as IR for remote control on the old RCX. You can use it to check the polarity of motors and move an attachment, but control is far too crude for anything beyond that. Anyone trying to cheat using BT it not going to be happy with the results. The best use I've found for BT is watching the robot program status on the programming screen while the robot runs on the table, That and sensor watching are the only real benefits.
        Last edited by Dean Hystad; 07-11-2016, 12:55 PM.

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        • #5
          Dean,
          • Getting ready for ORTOP Workshops this year, we checked laptops and robots for current versions. Current EV3 firmware level is 1.10E and Mindstorms is 1.4.3 (Mac) and 1.4.2 (PC)
          • I was curious to see if the Bluetooth code works, so tried connecting several variations: Mac, PC, Chromebook. None of these three platforms seems to connect with the EV3 brick :-( I was however able to connect my iPad to an EV3 via bluetooth :-)
          • We use Into Orbit missions for our summer training. In debugging mission M10 I broke it up into individual waypoints, then debugged each waypoint with the iPad / EV3 combination. This process works well and is very fast to make changes. At the end, I strung the individual waypoint moves into a long program. The process is similar to making an animated movie where you create each individual shot, then string them together into a film.
          • The Chromebook and iPad versions seem to have gotten bad press because of their limited features. However, debugging small sections of code with an iPad was faster than fiddling with the USB connection.
          • Dean or anyone, what is your experience with Bluetooth? Lots of schools here in Oregon are going to Chromebooks, so developing EV3 code on Chromebook/iPad helps elementary and middle school kiddos get ready for FLL.
          .Ken

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          • #6
            That you can connect using iPad is a clue.On the brick under Bluetooth there is a checkbox for Bluetooth and another for iPhone/iPad/iPod. AFAIK you cannot connect from a PC or Mac if the iPhone/iPad/iPod box is checked.

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            • #7
              Dean. Agreed. When I was trying to connect with a PC, Mac, or Chromebook, I unchecked the iPhone/iPad/iPod button. In some cases (PC/Mac/CB) it would briefly connect then disconnect. In other cases bluetooth would simply timeout and not connect. I believe earlier versions of the Chromebook code used to connect via bluetooth. Also, does LEGO listen to these comments or is there any way to get feedback to LEGO development? Thanks. .Ken

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              • #8
                Originally posted by kencone View Post
                Dean. Agreed. When I was trying to connect with a PC, Mac, or Chromebook, I unchecked the iPhone/iPad/iPod button. In some cases (PC/Mac/CB) it would briefly connect then disconnect. In other cases bluetooth would simply timeout and not connect. I believe earlier versions of the Chromebook code used to connect via bluetooth. Also, does LEGO listen to these comments or is there any way to get feedback to LEGO development? Thanks. .Ken
                LEGO doesn't participate in this forum.
                FIRST LEGO League Mentor and Referee/Head Referee since 2011.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by kencone View Post
                  Dean,
                  • Getting ready for ORTOP Workshops this year, we checked laptops and robots for current versions. Current EV3 firmware level is 1.10E and Mindstorms is 1.4.3 (Mac) and 1.4.2 (PC)
                  • I was curious to see if the Bluetooth code works, so tried connecting several variations: Mac, PC, Chromebook. None of these three platforms seems to connect with the EV3 brick :-( I was however able to connect my iPad to an EV3 via bluetooth :-)
                  • We use Into Orbit missions for our summer training. In debugging mission M10 I broke it up into individual waypoints, then debugged each waypoint with the iPad / EV3 combination. This process works well and is very fast to make changes. At the end, I strung the individual waypoint moves into a long program. The process is similar to making an animated movie where you create each individual shot, then string them together into a film.
                  • The Chromebook and iPad versions seem to have gotten bad press because of their limited features. However, debugging small sections of code with an iPad was faster than fiddling with the USB connection.
                  • Dean or anyone, what is your experience with Bluetooth? Lots of schools here in Oregon are going to Chromebooks, so developing EV3 code on Chromebook/iPad helps elementary and middle school kiddos get ready for FLL.
                  .Ken
                  I understand why schools like Chromebooks. They are inexpensive and easy to maintain. A Chromebook can do almost anything you can do with a PC, but it does not work at all for FLL. I've judged many teams using Chromebooks and I think the lack of wires and my blocks results in teams limiting what they learn and what they try to do. Chromebook teams use almost no abstraction and their programs are very much what you describe; move to A then move to B then move to C.... Sensor use is much less common using Chromebooks as are comments. Programs tend to be very long and really hard to work on. I don't hear many teams saying they enjoyed programming when using a Chromebook (or tablet).

                  Sometimes I have trouble with BT and I need to turn BT off and back on again on the brick to get it to work. I only had one time where I could not get BT to work at all and it was with a Mac. I've never had any trouble with a PC (other than the occasional BT on/off cycling).

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                  • #10
                    It is Lego's choice to keep Chromebook software at a more primitive level than the programs that run on PCs or Macs. There is nothing about Chromebooks that would keep them from making it run better

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