In the Spotlight – Kevin Neaves

I’m Kevin Neaves, Chief Technical Officer at the Department of Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering. One of my primary responsibilities is to run the mechatronics laboratory, this includes the setup and maintenance of all practicals and PCs as well as managing the group project for the Mechatronics 424 module. A regular work day can often involve fault finding and repair as part of technical support to the staff and students


The Department’s 3D printers, CNC router, CNC plasma cutter and COlaser cutter are all within my realm. While many of these machines and their control had a learning curve, the jobs which they manufacture are often interesting and there is always new knowledge to be gained.


As many of us have experienced, in high school one must decide on what to study. The thought of making that decision can be intimidating, but since I’ve always had an interest in how things are put together and work, it felt like engineering was a good fit for me (note, as I kid disassembled everything in sight, re-assembly not always possible or included!). My studies began at CPUT, where I completed a NDip, followed by a BTech in Electrical Engineering. Part of the NDip was to perform a year of in-service training. For this training, I assisted engineers in the R&D section of Omnipless Manufacturing (now Cobham) who are an aerospace communications company.


After completing my BTech, I began working as a technician at MGL avionics, where I fault found and built avionic systems. A random and memorable moment, was when Johan Stemmet (long time host of Noot vir Noot) happened to stop by the business for one of their systems.


Towards the end of 2009, I heard of the opportunity at Stellenbosch University, I applied as soon as I could and began working for the university in November 2009. After a few years of working I decided to do a part time MEng in Mechatronic engineering. A lot has changed over the years, but one of the perks of being in engineering and this environment is that there is always something new and exciting to see and learn. Whether it be from technological advancements or our students themselves.


In my spare time I enjoy flying, building and racing FPV (first-person view) quadcopters. This hobby has all the right ingredients for someone who enjoys computers, programming, building (and often repairing), tinkering and obviously flying. Flying a FPV quadcopter in an exhilarating experience and really gives you a bird’s eye view with a feeling of complete freedom.


In an effort to learn and develop new skills, I decided to learn welding and machining. Besides the fact that these skills are useful and practical to know, they also assist me in my work as they give one further insight in to how things are made and assembled. One thing I can say is our artisans make it look easy, however they have been a great resource and have always supported learning.


I also enjoy rock climbing, which has the benefit of providing exercise and the opportunity to experience nature at the same time. Another sport/hobby that I enjoy is table tennis. What started out a year or two ago as some lunch time fun is now quite good competition among colleagues.


My wife and I enjoy travelling and exploring new places. Primarily we overland in a 4×4, however we always welcome a weekend getaway of camping. While international air travel is hugely expensive at the moment, exploring southern Africa is much more affordable and truly an amazing experience.


From cars to RC cars, wakeboarding to volunteer wildfire firefighting, to fly and Raspberry Pi, I’m always ready to learn.