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It all started when Bertrem products Inc. was approached by the Ski Island Home Owners Association to come up with an accessible solution to help them open their dam gates remotely. Naturally, this might seem like a daunting task that includes a lot of technological knowledge. Still, it turned out to be an amazing experience for all of us. We took it as a great challenge and used the help from a couple of specialists until we eventually made it.

The customer desired to safely get their vehicle out and make it go to the top of the dam. They wanted to make it possible opening the dam gates whenever it was safe to do so. Clearly, this can only be done when everything dry, so the water will never overtake its safe level. The actual challenge wasn’t to open the dam but to do it during extreme weather conditions. Pretty complicated, right?


Luckily, the “smart guy” arrived providing the entire team with an interesting solution. Joshua Christiansen had studied automation his entire life and came up with the idea to use the Pro-face remote HMI. This was meant to lend a helping hand while controlling the AUMA actuators mounted by BPI right on the dam’s gates. The best part about this system is that it has such great software that is capable of building a smartphone app.


The second important person without whom the system would have never worked,  George Mayo, coming from Upchurch Electric, he helped us with the software part and the PLCs.

Still, we have encountered a problem here. As the code for the PLCs was not going to write itself, Jason Funk from Proface helped us get this task done. His responsibility was not just to write a well-organized code, but to make sure that all the input and outputs were correctly addressed. Besides, he made our program entirely safe and user-friendly.

As every remote connection requires a WI-FI system, we had the chance to partner with Gavin Jones from Industrial Electronic Supply and understand the way our wireless needs can be resolved. He suggested using a Bolt WI-FI adapter and Banner Radios. These are capable of transmitting MODBUS Protocol. Unfortunately, having a stable WI-FI connection did not seem to be enough. Consequently, we called on Joe Wazuski from Automated Dynamics Corporation to fix the final problems regarding the wireless communications between the two control panels.

Afterwards, Jake and Andy partnered with Central Machine Shop to get the left-handed A-nuts machined.

Last but not least, we were extremely lucky to get a lot of help from our suppliers. We had the chance to build two different control cabinets. Their responsibility is to control the six AUMA actuators situated on top of the dam gates. We positioned one of the cabinets at the side of the dam so it could be can be easily accessed by the customers, whereas the other one was mounted approximately 350’ away on the other side of the dam.

The last task was to get everything ready and make the platform accessible for everyone, regardless of their knowledge in IT. Matt Boes helped us to provide a solution for all the customers’ issues.

It took a little bit of time to finish the entire complex installation. However, every minute spent on working for this project was worth it. Now the customer can drive to their dam, access the WI-FI connection. As from then, everything is simple, they just have to log into the Proface HMI app and manage the gates however they want to.

The best part about the whole experience is that everything has happened while staying in a nice and comfy place, away from every source of water, inside their vehicle. It was a great challenge for everyone.


Guest poster: Brian Goins.