Projects

This is a list of projects I’ve worked on since, oh, around 1990.  It is by NO means complete – this is highlights only, and some projects I remember fondly (or, sometimes, not so fondly).  There’s not a lot of depth of information on these – that’s intentional.  I could fill up pages and pages with the projects I’ve worked on, and entire volumes if I dug into them deeply enough.  Also, these are presented in alphabetical order, not by order of completion.  Additionally, some of these projects were done for my company and some were done for a previous automation company I worked for (but do not identify in this listing.)

 

Industrial Automation:

 

Flour Mill Automation:  Kenosha, WI

The flour mill in question was (and still is?) the largest single construction flour mill in the United States.  It’s a monster – 48 raw wheat bins, 4 mills in a single building, two load-outs, one blow line that takes product directly to a pasta manufacturing plant, 6 Allen-Bradley PLC 5’s, 5 SLC 500 series, multiple Panel Views (ranging from old school orange screen to full color Ethernet connected), two servers with built in fall over, 12 PC based control terminals, and one remote link so I can administrate it from anywhere in the world on my iPhone or iPad.

Originally I was only responsible for the network and the Man-Machine Interface portion of things (based around WonderWare’s Intouch solution), but over the years I also took over support and development on the PLC side of the project making it an end-to-end support solution for the customer with a single point of contact and responsibility.

Flour Mill Network Design & Installation:  Kenosha, WI

Typically a network for a flour mill isn’t something of interest.  Usually it’s a little bit of CAT5 cable, throw in a few routers, and you’re done.  But Kenosha, WI has a network that stands out – 2x 6 strand fiberoptic network cables create the backbone of this network.  Standard old CAT5 couldn’t do the job – there’s too much electrical interference, along with frequent lightning strike created surges that would start blowing components (even with inline network protection!)  The fiberoptic network acts as both a high-capacity backbone and electrical isolator for the entire setup.

As time progressed on this project (which spans 15 years at the time I write this) other networking protocols and topologies had to be bridged.  Protocol converters were used to bring online multiple DataHighway+ devices, including PanelView terminals (pre-Ethernet versions), SLC 500 processors, and a few RS/485 devices.  The network map to describe the entire network is huge (I’d love to post it on here but, that’s proprietary information.)

Flour Mill Upgrade:  Oklahoma City, OK

This stick out as an oddity because of the process for doing the work.  We had to convert an entire mill from PLC3’s to PLC5’s.  Great!  Except there was no software upgrade path.  And, worse, the language they are programmed in (Ladder Logic) existed as two completely different, slightly incompatible versions.  And to add one more layer of difficulty – I didn’t have access to a PLC3, I only had access to the PLC5 series.  My job was to research the differences in the instruction set, translate from PLC3 to PLC5, write the entire program (on paper), and have it ready for extremely fast entry when we reached the site for installation.  And it worked.

 

Flour Mills of Lesser Note

Each flour mill has it’s own special considerations, problems, and opportunities.  However, most of them involve the same basic core technology:  multiple PLC’s (usually Allen-Bradley / Rockwell Automation PLC5 series or PLC5000, or, Siemens processors), multiple redundant control stations (for anything from old style Panel Views to old Allen Bradley Control View software to modern PC based platforms running RS/View32 or Wonderware’s InTouch platform), and a network to hold it all together.  My hands have been inside of all the different possible stages of a project, ranging from programming PLC’s in Ladder Logic to MMI systems to network design & installation to even getting out there with a screwdriver and landing I/O points or trouble shooting devices.  Also throw in documentation and training – CAD drawings, electrical layout drawings, documentation books, and on-site training.  This list, while not complete, is presented to show a quick idea how many I have dealt with over the years.

    • Hopkinsville, KY
    • Fresno, CA
    • Mt. Pocono, PA
    • Winchester, VA

 

Glass Bending Oven:  Wichita, KS

A MMI system designed to handle interfacing with the PLC to control a glass bending oven, along with data logging, recipe systems, and an odd “extra” – an RS/485 based LED display system I wrote custom software to interface between the MMI system and the LED display system to keep them in sync.  This allowed the operators to see the status of orders being loaded and unloaded without having to be right in front of the MMI terminal, which sped workflow considerably and increased safety.

 

Driveway Heater:  Wichita, KS

At first this might not seem like something to include on a list of notable projects – all it did was monitor the temperature and humidity, and decide when to turn on a driveway heating system.  However, there is something notable – first, it was my very first PLC programming project.  It ran interfaceless – there’s no terminal to control it, so if something goes wrong there’s no on / off button for it.  It had to work right every time.

Second, it was doing using a really old Micro-1 controller.  Ladder Logic seems a little primitive to most computer programmers – but the Micro-1 even made that look primitive.  It had a keypad on the front that allowed for direct entry into the one-line black and white LCD screen.  Every key press produces a beep.  There was almost no way to correct an error – you retyped an entire line if you fumbled something.  While not the most primitive PLC programming environment possible, it ranks up there.

Food Packaging Plant:  Des Moines, IA

This was a full MMI and recipe control system done in ControlView back in the pre-Windows era.  Today, recipe control packages are a simple bolt on accessory to most MMI packages.  Back then, it was a nightmare trying to get everything interconnected, and most of the batching was done within the PLC it’s self.

Food Packaging Plant:  Kansas City, KS

This was a full MMI and recipe control system done in RS/View32 and Microsoft SQL server with Rockwell’s extension package.  While very similar to the project mentioned above, it also contrasted the evolution of MMI development in the span of 10 years.  Same type of project, but with a whole lot less headache, and a whole lot more of the work done within the PC / server side.

 

Feed Mill:  Lang Fang, China

The feed mill constructed in Lang Fang, China was nothing like you’d expect – typically such a plant would be a concrete slip-form building with paint on it.  This, however, was the flagship mill they wanted to show the world.  And so we produced an MMI package that reflected it – all graphics were fully animated 3D isometric drawings!  This was with an MMI package that did not support importing graphics from other formats, did not support adjusting layers, did not support binary subtract operations, or any other of the multitude of great idea that would have made it much more simple to do.

Additionally, parts of the project reflected a philosophy of mine:  in computers, nothing is impossible.  At one point they wanted to vertically display the contents of bins on the side of those 3D drawings.  However, the MMI software at the time supported neither rotated text (the easiest way) nor string parsing!  I explained to the rep when I got back in the US that I had managed to do it – he said it was flat out impossible, even AFTER I had shown him the system running!  The trick was simple, really:  when a user enters text the MMI package had a keyboard it displayed onscreen for touch-screen systems.  I created my own on-screen keyboard display (inside the MMI package – it didn’t allow for external DLL’s or similar extendability till many years later), and captured the key presses on the fly, and stored each one in separate variables (there were no arrays, either!)  When I showed the software rep for the MMI package how it worked, he wanted a copy to show off to prove it could be done.  This is far from the only time I’ve done the “impossible”.

Total on-site startup time for the mill was 4 1/2 months.  I didn’t stay in a hotel – I lived on site in an apartment for the 4 1/2 months, immersed in the local culture.

 

Feed Mills:  Other

When my work on Lang Fang was done it ended up being reused frequently for more feed mill systems.  Some of these I handled the modifications to the MMI system myself, but not all, and only for Lang Fang did I physically have to travel to China for commissioning the mill, the rest were handled via remote support methodologies.

 

Wood-chip Dryer / Pressboard Manufacturing Plant:  Timmins, Ontario, Canada

 

Gas Heater:  Various

 

Beef Packing Plant Fiberoptic Network Design & Installation:  Iowa

This job was less about the physical labor, and more about project management.  My job was to design, bid, and implement a plant wide fiberoptic network – that part wasn’t too hard.  However, the company I worked for was supposed to provide three extra workers for installation phase, which meant I needed to factor for four workers in my labor.  Being the suspicious sort, I bid for worst-case scenario.  Two weeks before installation was to begin, the company said they no longer could spare the workers – I would have to hire two outside contractors.  So I did.

Then, when I got on site, they provided me with FOUR workers – this wasn’t optional, it was mandated that I had to take the extra workers, on top of the outside contractors (and the side-kick I had with me already.)  I now had eight mouthes to feed on a four mouth budget.

Part of project management is more than just quoting and running jobs based on the known – it’s based on anticipating the unknowable.  I had already compensated for such a bad turn of events in my budget – when I was done, I checked all of my expenses against my bid, and lo and behold, I finished the job on time and under budget.  (Note:  the company I worked for also had a nasty habit of “cross-phase billing” – so other places in the same overall project where they took a loss, they assigned it to my phase of the project.  I may have come in under budget but, they cross-phased my project enough times that it bloated to being way over budget.  That’s why I ran my own numbers to verify my results.)

 

Concrete Plant Fiberoptic Network Design & Installation:  Fredonia, Kansas

Same concept as the beef packing plant mentioned above.  Fortunately, I was able to keep my two-man team I planned on rather than a much larger team being forced on me.   I consider the project, while similar in scope to the previous one, to be a much larger success.

Another thing of note:  With all the networks listed above, at the time I was doing this I was only one network short of being able to take the test to get my RCDD networking certification (which, at the time, was a very big deal – there were only two in Wichita).  I never got the chance to do a marine installation to complete my set.

 

 

Game Development:

In 2000 I began my first game development project, and remained in the field until roughly 2006 in an off / and on basis through my own company.  This included both in-house development efforts and contract work, and some general consulting contracts.

Boulder Panic! 1, 2, The Challenge, Christmas Bonus, 2DX:

Tile Panic!

Flip Panic!

Trajectory Zone

Attack of the Goobers

Unnamed Soccer Title

Unnamed Golf Title

Unnamed Racing Title

Various

 

Web Development

Web development was never one of my goals – originally it started as an extension of desktop support contracts I was handling.  I could do websites – I already had a few of my own – when customers started asking if I would handle doing it for them.  In a competitive field it’s a bad idea to let anyone get a foot in the door, so I added Web Development to my list of services at the time that included desktop support, network design and installation, and industrial automation services.  Suddenly I was doing more in web development than support or networks, and totally dropped those two field.  As with other areas, this is not an exhaustive list – this just highlights some of the notables.

Diio.net

City of Kiowa

Bill Wiley & Associates

The Great Plains Renaissance Festival

The Wichita Highland Games

Film Biz Recycling

Linda Gregory Photography

ResAliens Magazine

Fear And Trembling Magazine

Dave Neal & Associates, REALTORS®

 

 

Mobile Software Development (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch)

All titles mentioned here are currently available through the Apple App Store.  Half of the projects are in-house projects, the other half are developed either as contract work or as part of the “publishing effort” for Midnight Ryder Technologies.

  • Fruit of The Spirit
  • iDeeds
  • The Story of Gamer Zone eBook
  • The Aston West Collection
  • Bang The Keys
  • Mobile Mystic Machine

Other Fields

I am a believer that people should be cross-trained – not just in their field, but outside of their specific fields.  This allows for a different, out of the box sort of thinking to hard problems that come up.  Here are a number of the other fields I have experience in:

 

Construction

I grew up with a father who was a construction electrician – so a lot rubbed off on me.  Over the years I’ve had quite a few times I’ve been a construction helper, and managing people comes naturally.  So when a friend pitched his idea for a BBQ restaurant and needed someone to head up the project he came to me.  A general contractor was selected to oversee my work (which, more often than not, was a very hands-off job for him), and we got to work.

The first phase of the project was the complete demolition of the existing Radio Shack setup that existed in the location. This wasn’t a simple recondition an old restaurant project – this was from the ground up.

My duties included:

  • Running trades
  • Hiring & managing workers
  • Interfacing with all city inspectors
  • Reading all construction drawings
  • Physical Construction

 

 

Writing

Communicating via written word comes very naturally to me – as natural as speaking.  I started blogging back before the term blogging was invented – we called them things like “diaries” or “.plan files” (depending on specific implementation.)  Eventually I made the transition from written word on a computer screen to written word on the page.  I also organize and sponsor The Kansas Authors’ Pavilion twice a year to help local authors get more exposure.

 

The Story of Gamer Zone

The Story of Gamer Zone covers a business failure from start to finish and beyond.

The Horror Game

My first in a series of “lite games” designed for social settings without having to deal with complicated rule sets.

Muse (Books 1 – 3) (Unreleased)

Book 1 is completed and currently living with my Editor until she’s finished with it.  Book 2 & 3 are currently being written.  This represents my first foray into fiction, and those who’ve read it love it.

Technical Support

While no longer a service I offer directly, my existing customers still call me for desktop support, new technology recommendations, cell phone support, and more.  I still stay up on the leading edge of technology with the simple concept of being able to answer any question at any time for a customer.

 

 

Teaching

Starting in 2010 I began teaching for Pixel Time Learning Centers in Wichita, Kansas as a part time instructor.  My classes are a fast-paced design for professionals that combines both lecture and hands on experience, and to date I’ve only had one person drop from my classes (and zero complaints.)  My classes included:

  • Game Development
  • Rapid App Development for iPhone, iPad, and Android
  • Web Development Using WordPress
  • iPhone / iPad Educational Lectures

I’ve also had offers to teach at Butler Community College as an Adjunct, but have so far declined the offers, but I am a member of the Interactive 3D Degree Advisory Board.

 

 

Television & Movies

In 2006 I founded The World of Gamer Zone TV show in Wichita, Kansas.  It ran for 12 episodes, and I decided not to attempt to renew the contract when the television station it aired on was purchased by another company.

The duties for this project included:

  • Production
  • Co-Host
  • Content Development
  • Editor

In 2009 and 2010 I also appeared in two short films – one unreleased and it was a non-speaking role. The other – titled “Free Me” – I appeared in a speaking role as Mike.

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