Engineering for Connection: NC State Ph.D. Candidate’s Bench Design in National Spotlight

Danny Krafft, an NC State ECE Ph.D. candidate, co-designed “The Connection Bench,” which earned national recognition.

Danny Krafft, an NC State ECE Ph.D. candidate, is harnessing his engineering expertise to address a social issue close to his heart. Alongside social entrepreneur Jordan Bowman, Krafft has co-designed “The Connection Bench,” a unique piece of public furniture aimed at fostering community connections and combating social isolation. Their project has earned them a spot among the top 10 finalists in the national Creating Connections Design Competition, hosted by BetterBlock.

Krafft’s journey into engineering began with a deep curiosity about how things work and a love for hands-on projects.

“My experience at NC State has taught me not just specific content, but how to learn,” Krafft said. “This mindset has been crucial in designing The Connection Bench, from initial design to prototyping and testing.”

The Connection Bench is more than just a seating option — it is a symbol of togetherness and community spirit.

His design partner Bowman graduated from NC State in 2020 with a Bachelor of Business Administration.

“We believe that design can be a powerful tool to bring people together, to make them feel seen and heard,” said Bowman. “Our bench is not just a place to sit; it’s a place to connect, share stories and build relationships,” he explained.

Balancing academic research with entrepreneurial projects like The Connection Bench has been challenging for Krafft.

“To say my experience was balanced would be an understatement. My personal life took a hit, but time management and a supportive advisor, Mike Kudenov, were key,” Krafft shared. “Success depends on prioritizing each responsibility and having an advisor who trusts you to get your work done.”

The ECE Makerspace at NC State played a pivotal role in the development of The Connection Bench. “The Makerspace allowed me to create our earliest prototypes and gain the confidence to design The Connection Bench,” Krafft noted, giving special thanks to Mr. Nguyen for his training and maintenance of the space.

Students work on senior design projects at the Electrical and Computer Engineering lab (ECE) lab on Centennial Campus. Photo by Marc Hall

The Connection Bench aims to impact the local community by fostering meaningful conversations.

“If our design can facilitate even one meaningful conversation, I would call it a success,” Krafft stated. He hopes to see Connection Benches around the Triangle and perhaps even on the NC State campus, providing students a break from the academic grind to reflect on life’s bigger picture.

Cast your vote

“If you like our concept, we would love your support in voting for us in the People’s Choice Award,” Krafft urged.

Cast your vote with this link for the Creating Connections People’s Choice Award between June 13 and 21.

To follow their journey and support their project, visit their Instagram (@ConnectionBench)

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