Managing the elements

Calling all teachers and FLL coaches: How do you manage all the elements that come in an NXT set? Do you try to keep sets separate, or do you let all the pieces get mixed up? What kinds of bins or organizers do you like to use?

The folks at LEGO Engineering would like to know, and they've created a survey that you can take.

I'd like to see if we can get a conversation going here in the comments section.

Shown is my my current bin system, the Stanley Professional Deep Organizer, model 14410. These bins are twice as deep as the bins in the 14325 organizer that Jim wrote about earlier. The problem with the deep model is that the small elements are dumped into large bins. I'm inclined to use a 14325 organizer for all the small elements.

Looking around, I see that Motocube has posted photos of an NXT organizing system.

You can see photos and read my review of the Plano 5231 Stow-N-Go Organizer here. I think it might work well for an individual, but in a class or club setting, it has drawbacks.


Peter Hoh said…
I'm not certain, but I think that Stanley is phasing out this line of organizers. You may still be able to find them at Home Depot, Lowes, and Target. Harbor Freight carries a knock-off version in their stores, but the lid is inferior and the plastic used for the case and the bins feels cheaper, too.
Anonymous said…
I like the Plano(made in USA) Boxs 2-3750 for parts. They are only 2" tall. but are very durable. They also double as obstical courses too.
Anonymous said…
The education kit comes with a great storage box with slots/compartments for parts and extra room in between the trays for storing papers etc.
Anonymous said…
I agree with anonymous. The storage sets that come with the education sets are great, and give plenty of room to spread the parts out.

For my home kits, I also use the Plano boxes. I keep all of them in a fishing tackle organizer that has side pockets. I have other sets that have large wheels and the pockets are a great place to store them so all of my pieces are together. Since the NXT bricks are also too large to fit in the Plano boxes, I use the side pockets to store them as well.
Brian Davis said…
The only problem I have with the education kit storage boxes is if they spill... you're done. They don't fit tight enough to keep all the small parts (like pins or bushings) in their storage cell if the whole box gets inverted (or worse, falls off a table). I use the Plano 3750's as well, with some of the smaller Plano's for axles, and the older shallower ZAG containers (the folks who made them before Stanley took over the prodcut line) for the really small or rare parts: pins, bushings, gears, axle connectors, etc.

Brian Davis
Peter Hoh said…
I've been thinking of punching holes in a sheet of foam (0.5 inch, or 1 cm thick) to make a holder for individual pins and short axles. Will post a photo when I get around to making it.
Unknown said…
I find that the best thing for sorting my Legos are those small clear tackle boxes, they work very well as they can fit any size piece. They are Plano and come in many sizes. Every single piece I have is sorted, such as different length axles, beams, different kinds of pins, everything only goes with things that are EXACTLY the same. It works very well.
Anonymous said…
i had one plano box full of my connecters and pins spill wonce :o thousands of the small parts went everywhere on wood floors they seem to bounce 20ft pluss always lock them plano boxs!
Anonymous said…
I like to use the Flambeau Kwikdraw 8030 or 8050 tackle boxes and the storage trays that come with them. The trays have rails that let them ride in slots in the main box, much like drawers in a dresser, and additional trays are available at sporting goods stores. The trays come in two depths, with the deeper one able to hold an RCX or NXT on edge, and the smallest division in the shallow tray is a convenient 5X6 studs. I've given several of these tackle boxes to the local elementary school to store their Mindstorms pieces, and they work well. We have found that there just aren't enough compartments in the Education set trays to adequately divide the parts, and I agree with Brian about them not being secure enough. (Of course neither are the Flambeau trays if they are knocked to the floor with the lid open.)
If you want labels for whatever storage method you use, you can find them at the ortop site.
Peter Hoh said…
Plano has a new rack system. The largest of these hold 3 or 4 series 3700 trays (with lids) with ample storage on top for the NXT brick, wheels, and other large components. See it here or look for it at a sporting goods store. Menards (a chain of home centers in the midwest) also carries these rack systems in bright yellow.
Peter Hoh said…
Mike, those ORTOP label sheets look great.
Kirk Backstrom said…
I also use the Stanley/ZAG containers. What they do that no other container does is you can remove the individual compartments and rearrange them. When I build, I simply take out the compartments that I need the most. I have about 12 of them (a mixture of deep and shallow types) for my Technic/Mindstorms.

I organize all my extra LEGO in ziplock bags that I put in my Rubbermaid Underbed Storage Boxes, which I store on shelves. (They are 30"x17"x6" and made of a hazy-clear material). The Rubbermaid boxes and lids also function as trays for sort and building.

Peter Hoh,

I called Stanley and they currently carry ZAG's "deep" organizer (14408) and ZAG's shallow organizer (14325). But they no longer carry ZAG's 14410 deep organizer.

But I have also seen knock-off versions replace the higher quality ZAG originals. Hopefully other companies will not follow suit.
Anonymous said…
I just got back from a vacation, and I went to a huge Sports Shop. They were having a sale on some type of tackle box. Being the geek that I am, I bought them and I am about to sort my pieces in the 3 I bought. They were $6 but I got them for under $2!

Until now, I have been using the NXT box, but now that I have had it for about 7 months, it is getting beat up. I will still store the bigger items in it, but the smaller things will go in what I bought.
Creative Kids said…
We're using the trays that come with the education set. Our team likes to be able to lift the trays out. They find that more kids can work on building at the same time.

I like the idea of tackle boxes that have lids for each section. But do the trays lift out?
Brian Davis said…
I would learn towards containers that can be lifted out or opened up seperately; I too use the ZAG containers lifted out of the case, and for building frenzies I open nine or sp of the Plano boxes, stacking open box on open lid three deep in an arc of three around me. The result is a nice array of parts, with very few lids that kids, cats, or parents can trip over (tripping on one open lid and watching the box go flying can ruin a good chunk of your evening). I have some tackle-box storage, but only the type with removable trays or containers - the chance of spilling one of those multi-tiered expanding tray systems (or of having to close one layer before opening another) makes me shudder. With regards to the "new rack" systems from Plano, they also used to have a big red box that held several of the large Plano storage boxes; that was actaully what I used when I taught. They ended up being hard to get, but I also for a while used some soft-sided cases that carried multiple Plano boxes (great for traveling, if everything was broken down).

Brian Davis
Peter Hoh said…
Plano boxes can be modified so that the lids can be removed easily.

As with any hack, try this at your own risk. Do not attempt this without adult supervision. Wear safety goggles. No warranty implied. Your mileage may vary. Yadda yadda yadda.

Looking through my collection, I see that this applies to the older style 3700, 3600 plano boxes. The Pro-Latch boxes use a slightly different mechanism, and this hack does not apply to them.

The lid part of the hinge assembly has a small piece of plastic that sticks up between the two hinge fingers. This piece keeps the lid from coming off the hinge.

Using nippers or a amall penknife, remove that piece that sticks up. Leave the fingers intact. The fingers will still hold the lid on when the lid is closed, but when open, the lid can be separated from the box.
Peter Hoh said…
Kirk, a customer service rep at Stanley told me that are limited to what they have in stock. They do not expect to receive any more new stock. The boxes are no longer regularly stocked in all Lowes stores, from what I can tell.

Creative kids: The individual compartments in the Plano boxes do not come out. The compartments in the Stanley/Zag boxes do come out. More questions? Send me an email. It's on my profile page.
aaron said…
Ummm...I use a $2.99 plastic organizer I picked up at Big Lots.

(see here:

Not particularly fancy, and it doesn't fit the brick...but it works.
Jason Bartholme said…

I posted about using the same Stanley organizer last week:

How-to: Organize Your Lego Mindstorms NXT Set

I like it because the container will not open up if a 2 year old throws it down a flight of stairs.
Anonymous said…

Is there any place where one could
just buy the storage bin and trays
from the Lego Education sets?

Like the ones shown here:



Thanks for any info
Anonymous said…
Peter Hoh or Mike R,

Could you please publish the exact link for the labels? I have been searching for them in the ORTOP link you gave like crazy and no success yet.

Thank you.

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