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How To Get Your Sphero SPRK+ Working With the Apple 9.7-inch Pad Pro Over Bluetooth And Avoid Common Pitfalls

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SPRK+

by Sphero
by Sphero

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The Sphero SPRK+ is a great way to learn about programming and robotics and it's easier to write your code on the same device that you want to control the Sphero SPRK+.  It's hard to write a lot of code using a phone so tablets like the 9.7-inch iPad Pro are a better coding development platform, especially when paired with the Smart Keyboard for 9.7-inch iPad Pro.

To set up the Sphero SPRK+ on the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, you should download the the SPRK Learning Lab App from the App Store.

After opening up the Lightning Lab App, you will need to sign in with your Lightning Lab account or create a new one if you don't have on already.

By default, you can create programs using blocks but there is also an option to use the App's Canvas editor to create text based programs using Sphero's C-like Oval language.  You can also directly start the program to run on your Sphero SPRK+  from the editor by pressing the Start button.

While sometimes the Bluetooth connection between the Sphero SPRK+ and the 9.7-inch iPad Pro worked, invariably at some point the connection became lost.  For example, when trying to directly drive the Sphero SPRK+, the App would report that 'SPRK+ Connected' followed by 'Robot Disconnected'.  The App would then repeat connecting and disconnecting to the Sphero SPRK+.

We could even see that even in the 9.7-inch iPad Pro's Bluetooth screen, the 'SK-90A2' representing the Sphero alternated between connected and not connected.s


The 9.7-inch iPad Pro does not use the traditional Bluetooth pairing process do don't try to pair the device from the iPad's Bluetooth settings or you'll just get a warning message stating that pairing was unsuccessful.  

To connect to the Sphero SPRK+ over Bluetooth SMART, all you need to do is bring the 9.7-inch iPad Pro close to the Sphero SPRK+.

We also tried to connect to the Sphero SPRK+ by using the Sphero App.  Again, we went to the App Store to download and install this App.

Here again the Sphero was often not found.

Sometimes, the connection was also successful giving some hope, only to see it dashed later when connect was lost again.

It seemed like no matter what happened, at some point the Sphero SPRK+ would eventually get into some sort of bad or sleep kind of state at which point it would refuse the Bluetooth connection.  Sometimes we were able to fix this temporarily by putting the Sphero SPRK+ into the charging base to reset and wake it up, but this fix would not last long.

We also forced firmware updates on the Sphero SPRK+ but that didn't solve the problem either.

Eventually, we found the root cause of the problem being that the Sphero SPRK+ was not charging correctly and losing Bluetooth connection mostly due to the battery simply dying out and the Sphero and Lightning Lab Apps not making it clear how much battery charge is left in the Sphero.

First, it's important to make sure that the Sphero SPRK+ is actually charging in the wireless charging base.  By simply placing the Sphero on top of the base does not guarantee that charging is happening.  You still need to make sure the inductive charging coils are aligned by making sure the Sphero SPRK+ circuit board is really level to the ground. 

You should then go to the Lightning Lab App's Home Screen's Feed Page and select 'Connect Robot'.  

Once you have touched the Sphero SPRK+ to the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, the two devices should be automatically connected over Bluetooth.  If the devices do not pair, you may need to wake up the Sphero SPRK+ by tapping it a few times.

On the top of the Lightning Lab App's Home Screen's Feed Page, you should be able to see the battery level of the Sphero SPRK+.  If it doesn't show a charging symbol while on the wireless charging base, you may need to make sure the Sphero SPRK+ center circuit board is parallel to the ground so that the inductive charging coils are lined up.  Once the Sphero SPRK+ is charging correctly, you should see a white charging symbol.  

Make sure the Sphero SPRK+ is well charged by seeing a green battery logo before using it or else you may see frequent Bluetooth connection drop outs as described above.

Once we made sure the Sphero SPRK+ was charging correctly and used it starting with a good charge, the Bluetooth connection became a lot more stable and the entire Sphero SPRK+ and Lightning Lab experience much more enjoyable.

 

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