on October 12th, 2021

Frikkie Marx has been with EIT for more than two decades. In that time, he’s cemented himself as a backbone member of staff when it comes to online presentations and group training in South Africa.

An updated list of courses he has presented with IDC and EIT is so extensive that it would require a browser adjustment for the reader. All of this translates to a well-versed and adaptable engineer that can at the drop of a pin customize and present select courses to uplift and share the experience with fellow engineers or upskill employees. He attributes his wide technical background to this. 

Frikkie Marx teaching a class
Pictured: Frikkie Marx in classroom

An enthusiastic instructor with a wealth of knowledge under his belt, students gain much from his practical approach and entertaining style, as thousands of others have benefited from his knowledge.

But like the ultimate professional, he runs his own business where he takes on the role of engineering consultant and course advisor and presenter.

It’s a natural progression from his time as a Chief Engineer at Kentron South Africa’s prolific armaments developer. Now he gets to sit back and help others achieve individual excellence by including his education and experience and disseminating it through specific courses.

We asked Frikkie some questions about his career, the adaption to online course presentations, and also his work as a published engineer and his impressive set of accomplishments.

What is your engineering background, where did you study and what is your specialization?

I graduated from the Rand Afrikaans University (RAU), now known as the University of Johannesburg (UJ). My final year thesis as well as vacation work at UJ introduced me to the world of Power Electronics which became my specialization when I joined Denel Dynamics (previously known as Kentron). My bursary was with the SA Transport Services (Electrical Light and Power division) where I focused on Power Supply, Distribution, and Protection for the Harbor areas. A Diploma in Datametry from the University of South Africa (Unisa) was the start of my IT career which led to Inopsis Wireless Services which supplied ICT services to a large number of clients ranging from households to large businesses. Managing the Test and Integration department at Denel, which was part of the Electro-optical Division, led to the development of Infra-red cameras for machine vision applications in both military and industrial applications. Finally, working at the Gerotek EMC test facility gave me valuable experience to solve various Interference problems in the design and development environment.

How did your own time studying influence how you approach lecturing?

An engineering degree is the basic building block and once in the industry, you are busy studying every day to either design new products or solve problems. In other words, in my approach, I use the bigger picture with some practical examples and experience to help explain difficult technical concepts.

What are some of the positive aspects you experience teaching via an online medium?

The most positive aspect is the fact that you can reach people all over the world without traveling. Another huge positive aspect is that in this age we live in is the fact that lockdowns have no influence on the training.

You also do group training in South Africa for EIT. What are those experiences like, where you have to condense so much information?

The biggest problem normally is to determine on which level to present the course. The audience is usually a mix of different levels of expertise as well as basic qualifications. I often have to adapt the material and practicals as I progress.

What do you think are your main area of interest when it comes to engineering?

As you can see from the previous answers, I embrace every aspect of my practical experience and am in the lucky position today to teach all possible disciplines or topics. There is no boring engineering field in my opinion.

Except for lecturing, what other roles do you have in the field?

Lecturing was always part of my interests and even part of my job description as a Line Manager. Project Management, as well as System Engineering, were part of my roles in the design and industrialization of products which prepared me for consultation work later in my career.

I enjoy trying to solve difficult technical problems in Power Electronics and EMC.

Frikkie Marx in classroom
Pictured: Frikkie Marx

With experience behind you, what is some of the best advice you can give to young or graduating engineers?

Your degree is only the first step in the learning process and your progressive learning (on-the-job training) will determine how fast you can adapt to the working environment and the changing technologies. Your whole career will be a learning experience. It doesn’t stop but only starts when you graduate. Always strive to be the “perpetual student”. 

What were some of the most difficult problems you ever helped solve in your career?

Many technical problems, especially those related to Electromagnetic Interference on system-level and designing of systems or subsystems from scratch. 

How has your work positively influenced your personal life? Perhaps opportunities to travel or the like?

Presenting Workshops for IDC Technologies took me to many different places in the world and that also help to relate to the people I now teach through online training.

Through an online classroom, what is the best way to engage with lecturers?

The best way is to share your experience during the sessions or ask questions that will also lead to answers from all the people in the virtual class. We all learn from each other.

Are you surprised that technology allowed you to teach all over the world?

I’m not really surprised with the technology which allows us to teach worldwide but more surprised that it took so long for this to happen. My involvement in the IT Industry exposed me to the online technology possibilities a long time ago but it took a while to really get off the ground in both implementation and acceptance.

What, in terms of engineering, do you think is the best invention ever?

A difficult question, but to start, the technologies or scientific laws that gave us transformers and motors. What would we do without power and movement? 

On the other hand, we have the development of electronic components which drive the conversion of power and all the ICT Technologies.

And the worst?

All technologies can be used either for the benefit of people or to harm people. A good current example is UAVs, which can be used to give us aerial pictures or kill from a distance.

If you weren’t an engineer, what career would you excel at?

I’m simply not really a number cruncher and only like to use a scalpel on a PCB board. Engineering was always the career that I was most interested in.

How do you stay calm when you’re under pressure?

My faith and daily exercise always help to release the pressure.

What have been some of your professional highlights?

Being involved in the development of products from basics which includes power systems, infrared cameras, missile systems, and various commercial products.

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