Geek Storage: How should we store our new robot parts?

Posted by
My partner, a Java engineer, has been wanting to experiment with robot programming, so I bought him the Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0, whose firmware can be replaced with Java based Lejos. I sorta forgot his birthday, so I owe him an extra nice holiday gift.

From the reviews I’ve read, however, once we get our robot geek on, we will have lots of small parts and no way to organize them in between robots. Knowing my partner, this means he will use lots of ziplock bags and an old shoebox.

While I’m not fundamentally opposed to recycling shoeboxes, I am sort of tired of the many ugly shoeboxes sitting around our house. Any ideas for a more interesting way to store robot parts? With the idea that we will likely add additional kits to the mix in the future? -Sunny

There are some problems that are so very indicative of an offbeat home — robot storage is one of them. And who better to help you out with your problem then the Homies themselves?

Homies, how would/do you store your robot parts?

Comments on Geek Storage: How should we store our new robot parts?

  1. I’m not sure the size of these robot parts, but maybe tackle boxes could be a solution? Either the standing ones with little drawers, or the flat ones with one lid for all the compartments. Also, you could check out old library card drawers, although those tend to be kind of pricey. I also remember a set of plastic drawers that were posted in a post here, the rainbow drawers? Those could work. Also, you could do a peg board solution and rig up something where you hang small jars from the pegs. Or use baby food jars and glue magnets to the lids and then attach the jars to a metal strip on the underside of shelves, kind of like the magnetic spice rack solution. Is there any way you can use these robot parts as decoration? Maybe a glass top coffee table, and the parts are organized under the lid-kind of like a robot graveyard? That might look kind of cool.

  2. I’m not sure how small the parts are, but my first thought was an embroidery storage box. They have lots of little compartments, are inexpensive and easy to find at any craft store.

  3. If they’re larger collections of things, I like those plastic rolling carts with the drawers (I make cards, and I couldn’t live without them, since I can roll them all over the house) If you’re looking for a prettier way, and the collections are small enough to fit in ziploc bags, how about a card catalog? They’re beautiful, and no longer useful in their original form. I know I’ve seen several at thrift stores.

    • I bought one for my ex, and as I recall, this was his storage solution. I’m not sure it had wheels, but he made labels for what each drawer contained.
      Not exactly an interesting storage solution, but it suited his engineerness very well.

    • IKEA also has rolling drawers that look like small tool chests. They have some smaller drawers and are that red metal. Personally I find them super sexy and wish I had one myself. The smaller drawer size is nice for laying out smaller parts and having more drawers for that.

    • There’s something particularly fabulous about robot parts in library card storage!!! I think those kinds of things are in hot demand around here, through (in other words, crazy expensive), so the IKEA drawers sound like an excellent alternative.

      I should mention that one part is a larger “brick” that probably wouldn’t fit into a small drawer.

  4. Me and my partner have a room full of collectables and an endless supply of spares/parts/accessories etc. Our storage solution is to place all of these into window box frames (we got ours from ikea) and display them as art. They’re easy to open when you need to get into them but are also fun to look at.

  5. Nerd World problems… XD

    I would actually wait to see what sort of organizational structure emerges with the plastic-baggie-and-shoeboxes method. Once that system is worked out then I would upgrade to a nicer/ pricier solution that emerges from what evolved with the make-do one.

    ^^^ That’s the way that works best for me. Any pre-emptive organizational things never seem to work quite right when I start a new hobby/ project.

  6. If the shoe box storage is working for you on a utilitarian level, why not just make ’em prettier? You could cover them in wrapping paper, thin fabric, Kraft paper (plain or decorated), or even paint them.

    If the shoe boxes aren’t working, then you might want to check the organization sections of your local craft or office supply stores. If your storage solution includes magnets, though, make sure your stuff won’t be damaged by them. It likely won’t be a problem, but it’s better to double-check than to discover at the last minute that a critical component has been rendered useless.

  7. My husband is a collector (a.k.a. hoarder) of watches and we’re only just developing a system so that we’re not constantly moving/standing on/losing watch straps, faces, buckles and teeny tiny spring bars.

    We discovered Really Useful Boxes that come in lots of shapes and sizes, but most importantly have a range of trays with different sized compartments that you can use to organise stuff.

    The boxes are sturdy, stack nicely and have lids that snap into place to secure your stuff. My sister swears by them, and since discovering their website I may well be asking for some more for Christmas!

    They are a UK company, but also have an online store in the US. Their website has info on where you can find their products in 9 other european countries too.

  8. Tackle boxes seconded, plus bead storage.
    If you want to DISPLAY your robot parts, rather than tuck them away, look into spice or candy containers, like

    The little metal spice containers can be magnetized (Though I don’t know if that would be desirable with programmable parts?)

    Then there are bigger jars like so:

    Having your robot parts on display and using them as a decorating option rather than a simple utilitarian solution could give you a retro cyberpunk look, or err on the side of steampunk depending on yor style.

  9. First off, yay for Legos!!!!!

    I’ve got that kit, as well as the old school RCX, and if your partner is anything like me, he’ll want everything organized, thank you!

    I use two tackle boxes (like this: I got from Meijer. They’re not the prettiest, but they work really, really well. For the initial kit, a single tackle box will work just fine and then when it expands (because it will expand!) you can buy more.

    Also, tackle boxes are just far superior to ziplock bags for building with legos.

  10. Get some of those large plastic containers that fit under the bed. If they are transparent, you can easily see what is in them. Also, if you want to organize items inside of them, then you can subdivide with cardboard sub dividers, or ziploc bags. It’ll be a lot nicer, and all the bags will be together.

    Something like this: but you can also find something similar at stores like Target.

  11. You could use office supply organizers, craft stores carry crafty organizers that might work, jewelry containers could work if you need cushion, a tackle box would probably be one of the cheaper options, and hardware stores carry storage thingys to organize screws, nuts and bolts.

  12. How about boxes within boxes – have a box for each robot, then get smaller ones (I like cheap little gift boxes from $2 type shops) inside for the components relating to that robot. As one is finished you can use that kit for a new in-construction robot.

  13. Luggage! Decorating fun vintage suitcases is an option if you want to display them, and then various travel organizers, or even the shoeboxes and baggies, will fit inside. They’re easy to move around if you work in different rooms or houses, and easy to store when you’re finished.

  14. This shit is why I read Offbeat Home *swoon* As a steampunk fan and a computer science girl getting involved with RoboCup, excess robot parts is a problem I wish to have at some point.

    I was just going through the archives, and happened across one of the early posts about some guy’s steampunk attic, and he had small ‘robot parts’ displayed in big test tubes, which I thought was cute.

    I also back up the tackle box commenters. I started seeing them in a new light since an old high school friend got a job with a delivery company, and created the Snacklebox for her shifts; tiers of carefully organized candy and crackers.

    • SNACKLEBOX! Perfect, because my partner is trying to eat fewer larger meals and just have more healthy snacks throughout his workday. Now, as long as he doesn’t grab the RoboBox instead of the Snacklebox. But I guess the RoboBox will be much bigger.

  15. DIY tool boxes can also have lots of separate compartments and some have wheels depending on the size.

    Need to get rid of the shoe boxes with comics in them, (not the comics, just the boxes) maybe will replace with plastic ones.

  16. For any of you following this: Our first choice was the sexy red metal tool chest. Ikea seems to have discontinued theirs (or at least in the US). The others we found were in the $600 and up range, so they were out.

    So… the winner is… the Plano 7271 Stowaway System tacklebox; he paid something like $40 for it. I think it is close to the one mentioned up thread, but that link isn’t working any more. We bought it at Dick’s Sporting Goods because, gasp! we couldn’t find it on Amazon 😉 And we are SO glad we bought the storage before we began unpacking the parts, cause there are a LOT of parts! This tacklebox seems good for one Mindstorms kit – when the next one it is added, it will probably require another tacklebox. And upon purchase, we realized – the beauty is, the robot can travel on vacation with us 🙂

    And this kit is AWESOME! The first robot has been dubbed DizzyBot. It just spins around in circles at random speeds 🙂

    Thanks everybody!

Join the Conversation