Weather Forecast


RoboChair designer seeking investors to get production started

Brad Benke has launched a Kickstarter campaign to bankroll production of his RoboChair. Dave Wallis / The Forum

Thanks to online fundraising giant Kickstarter, Brad Benke of Stahl Architects already has donations from people around the world in support of his furniture design called the RoboChair.

Benke has until 10 a.m. next Friday to find investors willing to help him reach the $17,500 needed to refine and mass-produce the foldable lounge chair that also serves as functional wall art. As of noon Thursday, Benke still needed a little more than $11,000 to reach his goal.

Kickstarter pairs inventors, artists, musicians and other entrepreneurs with potential investors. Creators set a fundraising goal and deadline for their project. Money does not change hands unless that goal is met.

Like most Kickstarter entrepreneurs, Benke is offering promotional merchandise, limited-edition products and even a one-of-a-kind trip to supporters based on their donation dollar amount.

Benke, an intern at Stahl Architects in Fargo, designed the RoboChair under the tutelage of the firm's owner, Phil Stahl. Benke was a student of Stahl's at North Dakota State University, where he expects to graduate next year with a master's degree in architecture.

When they began discussing an internship, Stahl had a Kickstarter campaign in mind, so the two decided to work together to design a piece of furniture.

"Architects always like to design furniture, too," Benke said. "We like to design at all scales, so I was looking at a really pure piece of furniture where it's just like one folded piece of furniture."

Benke made multiple sketches, but it was a rough drawing of a robot that caught Stahl's eye. "The robot chair was probably the most entertaining and the most Kickstarter friendly," Stahl said.

Unfolded, the 1.5 inch-thick RoboChair can be hung on a wall mount and serve as a conversation piece.

The chair easily becomes a sleek lounger by pulling the robot's torso out and locking its arms and legs together.

The RoboChairs are now made out of Baltic birch plywood, but if the funds are secured Benke and Stahl would like to experiment with different materials, color schemes and graphics. They would also like to produce a smaller version of the chair just for kids.

Benke said there are no plans to build a manufacturing facility, so they would like to develop the RoboChair into a finished product, and then pitch it to a company such as Ikea or Target.

Benke has been much more than an architect throughout the development of the RoboChair. "It's been a great outlet because it's woodworking, industrial design and furniture design," he said.

He also used photography and graphic design skills, and a sound understanding of social media to launch the Kickstarter campaign.

To support RoboChair, visit their Kickstarter page.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Angie Wieck at (701) 241-5501

Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author's name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send a letter to the editor.