Using a Pi to control a steamboat


When I started this project I tried a Pi zero with camera, Automation Phat and Speaker Phat but due to the difficulties I ran into with sound, I gave up and am now using a Pi 3B+, camera and Automation Phat.
So what does it do?
Well, the steamboat is a five foot long steam powered sternwheel paddle steamer and as you might guess, it’s the steam bit that is the problem. If you’re running a steam engine on land the boiler pressure and water level are easy to control, but on the water…
So I came up with the idea that if I mount a camera so that it can see the pressure guage and water level sight glass, then a bit of clever software should be able to read the guages and turn the gas flame and water pump on and off.
Well, controlling the gas and the pump was easy, but I have to admit that I delegated the clever bit to my son who is a professional coder.
The software also interfaces with the radio control receiver so that flicking a switch on the transmitter causes a recorded steamboat whistle to sound.
I’ve got all the hardware finished and there’s just a bit more to do on the steam plant, but we should be able to launch in the next couple of months.
If I could figure out how, I would post a couple of pictures.