Cheap case to carry robot on a flight?

We will fly to Dallas with our 18x18x18 robot. Instead of buying a $200 or more expensive case, is there any other cheap case we can buy at home depot or other stores? A 20x20x20 case will be perfect.

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You could buy a $10 tote from Lowes, Home Depot, Target, Walmart, or pretty much anywhere and line the insides with blankets for padding


Anything but a box, last years we did the same thing and did not buy the very expensive vex boxes,but ended up regretting it because our robot got moved around during the flight and the drivetrain steel bended. So point of the story just make sure to buy a goof padded box WITH WHEELS it’ll be living hell for u guys if you dont go to the venue with at least a box with wheels or a mini kart(your booth to the place where the matches are played are a bit far,and you dont want to carry a heavy robot arounf.

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I know that costs can add up quickly going to Worlds, and it can be difficult to get funds to cover everything, but arguably the most important item you are bringing to Worlds (besides yourself) is your robot. Think carefully if that is the area you want to save a little bit of money on.

The gold standard is probably the Pelican 350 case. They are designed to take a beating and keep what is inside protected. They are also one of the priciest options, but check out eBay for used ones. We have picked a bunch up off of eBay and they are very usable because they are built like tanks. The caster kits are often a separate purchase, but are almost a must for moving them around.

RoboSource also makes nice cases, although I have never used them. Even if you don’t use one of their cases, they have some excellent packing advice on their website: Robosource VEX Robot Case, Fully Assembled, Foam Padding -

On the least expensive end, many have traveled to world with a cardboard shipping box for their robot. Some have had bad experiences. If you do need to go with cardboard, make sure you add reinforcement to the box and lots of padding to the robot. A very common occurrence is drive trains and axles ending, so consider taking your wheels off or at least adding blocking under the bot so the weight isn’t on the wheels.


Let me give a +11 for the RoboSource case. Super nice, very rugged, we have teams that are in year 3 of them and they look brand new. Splurge for the removable wheels!!! You can then use it as a wagon to cart your robot from pit to field.

If you want to ship, get the FEXEX double wall 18x18x18 box and put your robot in it. Then put that box with a layer of packing all around in their 24x24x24 box. I’ve used the blue housing insulation board as the packing around the inner box with pretty good success.

Advantage using the boxes is you can punch holes in the inner 18" box and ziptie the robot to the box to keep it from flailing around.


Unfortunately, there are no cheap plastic containers at these stores that will both contain an 18" cube and meet the 20" cube requirement for air transport. This is a problem that does not have a cheap solution.

You can save some money by purchasing road case hardware online and building your own case with locally sourced plywood and foam.


We used a box in a box shipping method to fly our robots. This is where you build one box to hold the robot and place it inside a larger box with added padding.

Use a 1/2" plywood base at the bottom. remove the wheels, and screw the chassis to the plywood. The 1/8" axles are the most vulnerable. Use cloth padding to pack inside the gaps (clothing / towels / bedding / foam), support the motors, and essentially make it so nothing can move. Pack that inside of the smaller box (approx.18 x 18 x 18) and tape it up. If packed well the box should feel like one solid piece.

Then pack that box inside of a 20x20x20 box with either rubber foam or towels so that the inner box is padded. You want the padding to be firm but not tight - that’s your shock absorber. This way if the box is dropped or flipped, the inner box stays rigid, and the outer box takes the damage.

You may need to find a local business / manufacturer that help with the materials, or check with a pack & ship store.

Even with the nice cases listed above, if you don’t have the core of the robot packed well, any impact or motion could damage it in travel.


Can build yourself some, but cost is still not free.

  1. plywood
  2. HIGHLY recommend to use STAPLES to assemble box (screws good also, but NO nails)

Have used these:


And also these. They are nicer but MUCH harder to install as they have to be recessed into the plywood.

Good handle. Must be recessed, but not hard to do with a router.


Corner protection (optional):

The word on wheels… I’m told airlines don’t like stuff rolling around and will flip your bot onto its side to make it stay put. Maybe robosource said this?


1/4 plywood @ home depot $30
latches $15
handles $12
corners $14

TOTAL $71 plus time, gas, tools, etc


Followup… you need 8 latches, 2 per side. So double the latch cost, moving the total to $86.

Re: the second set of latches, ones robosource uses. They are nicer, but recessing is a PAIN. And if not done perfectly, you end up with jagged edges of box (on one side) and latches (on the other side).

Exposed latch (sharp):


Exposed wood (splinters):


Groove milled into box to provide additional ‘finger grab’ spot when pulling box from tight places.

First latch just screws into place:



Would love more full photos of this when available

Box 1, all latches open

Box1, lid upside down next to it

Box 1, side view

Box 1, inside view of handle screws, had to grind/sand them down a bit.

Box 1, lid standing upright.

Box 2

Box 2

Box 2

Box 2, staples. Immense holding power.


Wow, I am so amazed by all the replies and the detailed instructions. I’ll share with my team. Thanks a lot!


I was able to find used Pelican 0350 for $160 . That was on Ebay, but look in craigslist locally.

Pelican 350 linear inches is 66. Could you check in such a box on a flight?

2 questions about diy boxes:

  • foam. I have been having trouble finding good thick eggcrate foam in the right sizes to pack a robot in a box. Looking for something similar to what comes with a robosource or Pelican crate. Anyone have any leads?
  • I’m also looking for a good rolling handle. I’d like to use a pre-made one instead of a custom one, does anyone know where I can find a pretty cheap one? If I can’t find one soon, I’ll just get the robosource one and adapt it.





If you’ve got some ‘trash’ vex wheels, bearings, metal, etc then just make a collapsible frame/wheels that 1) store in the travel box and 2) will deploy and can be placed under the box for rolling.

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Go to a thrift store and find a cheap roller suitcase and cannibalize it for the parts.