Thinking space

Hello All~

Vexatron here.

For those of you who have been around the forum for a while, “Reports of my death…” and all that :wink:

Anyway, decided to peek back into the forum - haven’t been here since the revamp - and I was pleased to see that a few of my posts have even survived. (I have also reached out to Valeria93 and invited her to resume our old habits, for those long-recalling elephants out there who still remember us. Hoping…)

So, this post is entitled “Thinking Space” because it’s where I get a lot of my inspiration for building. To me, a proper “thinking space” for vex has lots going on.


  1. visible and accessible build components
  2. partial builds (even failures) lying about
  3. A few misc hexbug builds floating around

We (classroom teacher, students, and I) recently organized all the vex IQ in the classroom in which I volunteer, putting everything into open bins, and it was inspiring to see the students just “standing there” looking at all the parts and/or staring off into space, “thinking” about their builds.

That’s what “thinking space” is all about.

I travel as a volunteer, so my parts are always in stowaway tackle boxes. (See sample photo - and i20200317_141112 f interested in my entire organization for this, feel free to ask.), so when “I” work on vex, I sit right down on the floor and arrange all my stowaways in a circle around me, everything within sight, everything within reach.

Of course, buying all of it (and getting it all organized) took years, and no small amount of eBay auctions, but the organizational piece really is vital to my design process. I spread everything out so it’s visible and accessible, and I never stop with just one build. Usually it takes seven or more :wink: And until I run out of parts, I keep early designsfor reference as I build the improved versions, “building on” what worked, improving what didn’t.

In the classroom, this means a partially built steering mechanism or differential gear example, multiple gear trains, (or similar), always lying about somewhere so that students can look at them for inspiration.

I don’t spend much time demonstrating how rack gears work - I leave one assembled and visible!

If any of you are NOT doing this, just throwing it out there: investing in a quality organizational system and keeping everything “right there” makes a huge difference. And a totalky clean lab…? Might be counter-productive. Pick up the individual parts, but always leave a few partial builds lying about.

As always, thanks for reading!



Welcome back, looking forward to see some of your latest creations!

I have two sets of parts. I go from team to team at libraries, schools, etc. I try to carry a few of everything. To do that I have a hard sided rolling suitcase that holds 7 of the trays that @Vexatron uses. There are also three larger boxes. for motors, battery pack, controller. The suitcase has swivel wheels and is easy to move around. It zips shut, so the trays and parts stay inside and don’t bounce around. Pro tip, don’t let people put the trays in the box. You do it and make sure both snaps are closed. I like the Plano “pro-latch” series, they are easy to unlatch and latch.

Robot lab storage is two of these: that have everything I need. Parts are sorted by what they are (like a box of all 2x parts, 2 boxes of connectors, etc.) Sometime I have a set of colored parts, so there are three boxes with all orange parts).

I work off a table that is 3’ deep (there are monitors at the back so I only have about 30" of space) and 7’ long. Like Vexatron is spread the parts around so I have access to them. Unlike Vexatron, I sit in a chair, getting up and down off the floor is sometimes a challenge. :slight_smile:

One of the things that I do is move parts from the bins to a cupcake tin. Digging pins out of the small cubes is a pain. I’ll scoop a dozen or so out, use them and refill as needed. I also use the cupcake tins for when I build a new VEX model, I sort the parts out into the tins to make them easier to find. The tins are close at hand, then I’m not getting up and down out of the chair. The tins come in sizes from regular cupcakes (6 to a tin) to the mini’s (12 to a tin). Hit up your local Goodwill for used ones for $1 each.

Likewise I have “reference builds” that I can go grab. Like the orginal clawbot claw is on a shelf across the room, motor and all ready to go. I can either copy it, or just snap it on, look at what needs to change then build what I need.

It wasn’t mentioned, but I have very good lighting over the table, and I have a light on an arm that I can bring in for more lights. Trying to place pins inside of a dark space is hard, a little extra light makes a difference.

I also have a travel Build Blitz set. The parts are in a Ikea food safe storage box with the pins and stuff in an 18 unit storage box. The parts in the bottom, storage box on top, then the lid that SNAPS ON AND IS A PAIN TO GET OFF. But, almost impossible to dump out going around the corner in the car, or tripping on stairs in a school and sliding 1000 parts across the floor. I’m still finding pieces in the car from a year ago. Having the snap lock lid means that a younger roboteer can carry it without me thinking they will dump it. The smaller 18 cube storage is perfect for the small parts. Most of the events with the Build Blitz is dump the box on the table and let people build.

This is worth 100 hearts. You save 2 seconds on every part you touch because you know where it is. With a big build (or the same build 7 times until it’s right) it will save you hours on builds. It’s a huge pain to rip apart and put things back in the right space, but it’s worth it.

Thanks Vexatron for the great post, looking forward to seeing your next dozen creations.


Your reply Is much appreciated. (I actually recall your original post on this and your getting containers at Harbor Freight!)

And, yes, I have a few build ideas.

As to putting everything back where it goes, I find that I’m actually pretty fast. In fact, faster because everything has a “home.”

I tear it ALL apart, grab all the 4x plates out of the carnage and put them away (because they all go in the same container :smile :wink: next comes 2x beams, etc. And because I’ve organized like parts together (and because standard vex is already color-coded), even small parts can be quickly sorted out and put away.

Glad to see that a few familiar names like yours are still on the boards!



Yes, I know this is an old thread, but it’s a good follow on.

I ended up getting a huge number of used parts a few weeks ago and I needed to find a way to get them sorted and put into some off-line storage. Using the storage trays wasn’t going to be practical with the large number of parts.

I ended up sorting them by size, and in some cases by color. I then used ziplock bags to contain them. Ziplocks come in snack, sandwich, quart, gallon and 2 gallon sizes. So it was easy to put them in a close sized bag. In some cases, bags of like parts (for example the 5 snack bags of 12 pin gears, about 20 of each color, each their own bag then went into a quart bag.

I made an effort to squeeze out extra air and the final bags went into IKEA totes. Each of the three totes, electronics, motion, structure then can be pulled, find the big bag, and then pull the smaller bag to find the exact part. The clear bags let you see what’s in them. Structure bags do have the sizes in sharpie, since the difference between a 7 hole and a 8 hole is hard to see right off.

The two 12 gallon IKEA tubs of motion and structure are pretty full and weigh about 35-40 lbs each. You can get lots of VEXIQ parts in them.

For larger teams that don’t want a huge inventory in parts out at the team level, this may be a simpler solution that doesn’t take up a ton of final space.