A case study in upgrading the upgrades
Patti Perspective
November 2018

Hi Meghan,

We hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  As always, we spent some time on the holiday thankful for our customers, partners, and our team.

This month, we are revisiting a project in the City of Fair Oaks Ranch.  Quite often, we talk about building systems that leave room to expand.  This month, we have a case study that shows just how that played out.

Our spotlight this month is actually two spotlights!  For the first time, our annual Clayton R. Smith Memorial Scholarship had the funds to go to two deserving students at Kettering University.  we would like to introduce you to recipients Katelyn Gilles and Ashlee Huff.

Feature Article
City of Fair Oaks Ranch Project Update
Strong Water and Wastewater System Backbone Affords Later Improvements

When Patti Engineering embarks on a project, it is often done with the intention of leaving future pathways open. Upgrading technology can offer more possibilities than the budget allows at one time.

Recently, the City of Fair Oaks Ranch in Texas took advantage of the possibilities that were afforded to them by a technology upgrade a few years earlier. The way we designed the system originally created a backbone that all of this functionality could be built off of down the road. These were upgrades that they had wanted at the time, but there was only so much availability in the budget at on one time. Now, they have a system that checks off nearly all of their wish list.

The Challenge

Several years ago, we replaced all of the PLCs and the SCADA system. Now, they requested several enhancements to the existing water and wastewater system including:
  • A weather station integrated into the SCADA system.  This would allow the data to be displayed remotely via the webpages and it would log the weather data (such as rain totals, wind speed, wind direction, etc.) over time.
  • Replace an aging lift station control panel
  • Integrate an above ground storage tank of irrigation into the existing control system.
  • Integrate flowmeters for several water lines that did not have digital meters.

However, increased budget availability does not mean unlimited budget availability. Our two teams worked to make these changes as efficiently as possible.

The Solution

Patti Engineering worked with the budget laid out by the City of Fair Oaks Ranch to help make the wish list match the funds. Having worked with the team before, we were familiar and able to match our services and their skills. To help accommodate the budget, Patti focused on the design of the system, while the City of Fair Oaks Ranch team performed the install of the components. Patti specified hardware and made print markups.

Weather Station
Patti Engineering had previously developed and installed an Indusoft SCADA system. Indusoft has native Modbus TCP drivers, and we were able to find a Modbus TCP weather station, allowing us to have the SCADA system connect directly to it. Patti Engineering developed the displays and added the new data to the logs.

Bottom of Hill Lift Station

The City of Fair Oaks Ranch had an aging lift station panel, which controlled two pumps via floats and relay logic. The wiring on this aging panel was hard to follow. Modifying set points required physically adjusting float switches. this station also directly fed the wastewater station. When it turned on, there would be a large amount of inrush of wastewater into that system.

To solve these annoyances, we put in a brand new panel with a Siemens 1200 PLC for overall control, Siemens G120 VFDs to drive the motor, and an analog level sensor. The updated panel wiring was greatly simplified. The VFDs made it possible to gradually increase and decrease the inflow so that there wasn’t such a shock to the treatment plant. The analog sensor gave operators variable control of the set points. In addition, all of this functionality was tied into the SCADA system, allowing control and diagnosis to be done remotely over the web.

Above Ground Irrigation Tank

Near the lift station, a take of water had relay logic that drove motor starters which were controlled by float switches. There was no connection to the SCADA system at this location at all. We wired in the motors and added an analog level sensor similar to those at the lift station. These upgrades provided all the same benefits as above, along with remote, high-level alarming made possible by the SCADA integration.

Flow Meter

Several water lines had analog-only flow meters. This meant that staff had to travel throughout the city to log values daily. To solve this, we added digital flowmeters and tied them into the local PLCs, so the flow could be totalized and logged via the SCADA system that, again, could be monitored and controlled remotely. This saves the team quite a bit of time and travel.


With the upgrades, the system runs well and has more than adequate visibility into the system both remotely and historically. With better visibility of system issues throughout the city, the City has more accurate, instant results. The team has gained more time by not having to make daily trips around the city – in addition to the late-night and off-hours trips for false alarms.
The City of Fair Oaks Ranch now has a system they are very satisfied with; their wish list complete.

Ashlee Huff and Katelyn Gilles

Ashlee Huff

Ashlee Huff is a Sophomore 1 planning to major in Electrical Engineering.

She chose Electrical Engineering during high school because of an Electronics and Robotics class she took at the Bay-Arenac ISD Career Center. She enjoyed the work they did- and proved to be good at it when her team placed second in the state of Michigan for the SkillsUSA Electronics Technology competition. The following year I placed 3rd in the state for the Robotics and Automation Technology competition.

At Kettering, Ashlee is the secretary of the Aerospace club and participates in IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers).

She is finishing her third co-op term at OSRAM Opto Semiconductors in Novi, MI. There, she is an Applications Engineer and work on primarily printed circuit board design and PCB population.

“I love the people I meet while attending Kettering University,” she said. “I get the opportunity to meet lifelong friends, but also be guided by field experts and inspired by Kettering/GMI alumni.”

In her free time, Ashlee enjoys spending time in nature – and Michigan certainly offers many places to do this, but she also plans to travel the world. Due to this love of nature, she is interested in The Ocean Cleanup project, which has the goal of removing tons of plastic waste from the oceans. She hopes to become involved in the future. Ashlee enjoys sports: watching hockey and baseball and leisurly playing tennis and volleyball.

After graduation, she plans to continue her education in Electrical Engineering. “I am open to any opportunities that arise and I can't wait to see what happens.”


Katelyn Gilles

Katelyn Gilles is a Freshman II majoring in Electrical Engineering.

As a junior in high school, Katelyn attended a two-week pre-college program at Kettering called LITE (Life Improving Through Engineering).  The work that she did in that program taught her that she was actually not as interested in chemical engineering as she had thought – as important a lesson as confirming what one does like.  In hindsight, it makes sense.  She grew up building electronic kids with her dad and tearing apart old appliances to figure out how they worked. 

At Kettering outside of her classwork, Katelyn is a member of the Alpha Phi sorority, The Society of Women Engineers and Habitat for Humanity.  She has also played on a flag football team and wrote an article for The Technician (Kettering’s school newspaper). “I really enjoyed writing that article and I plan to join the staff of The Technician during the Winter 2019 term,” she said.

If that weren’t enough, Katelyn also keeps an on-campus job as a desk assistant at one of the residence halls.  It’s one of her favorite things to do as it gives her the opportunity to greet her peers and reach out for help if she’s struggling with a new concept.

Katelyn is currently working in her first co-op term as a hardware engineering co-op for Pi Innovo. Her main tasks have been mechanical designs. High voltages are keeping Katelyn curious.  Outside of class, she has been preparing for upcoming high voltage testing at her coop.  She chose to use the Lichtenburg method to design a cornhole board for a project.  While it didn’t work, she’s now working with a professor to try it in the high voltage lab next term.

Her hobbies include video games, woodworking, and art.  With her woodworking skills, she created an electric guitar that took “over 258 hours to complete.  I lost track after that.”  The guitar won third place in the MITES (Michigan Industrial Technology Education Society) competition.

As for her future, Katelyn is exploring her options.  Fascinated by the medical industry, she could see herself designing medical equipment, like prosthetics.  She is also researching green jobs in the renewable energy and the hybrid/electric automotive industries.

With their dedication, curiosity, and passion, the future for both of these  engineers is bright.

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Best regards,
Georgia Whalen

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