Monday, October 13, 2014

Finalizing the Paper

As the team had just presented their project last Thursday, it's time to crank out that paper. The team has gone through a bunch of different editing techniques, but they have finally found one that seems to work! Group editing can be challenging, but we found that if we each edit certain parts individually, we can then read the entire document word by word to make sure the edits make sense when read aloud and if anyone had any suggestions, ideas, or changes, they could be made.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Lessons Learned on Reaching Out

   The data collection for our project heavily revolved around our ability to effectively reach out to the applicants of the TA grant program for their feedback. We learned some important lessons about how to most effectively initiate contact with and get information from the applicants. Almost all of the applicants were either employees or volunteers for their town governments. As with many occupations they are often inundated with emails. This means timing and reminders were vital for our work of getting survey and interview responses from them. We sent out our initial survey request emails to applicants on a Friday morning. We got numerous completed survey responses and even more notifications of surveys having been started through Qualtrics. Responses tapered off after the first few hours. Presumably this is because the emails proceeded to get buried in their inboxes. Therefore we sent our two further reminder emails staggered a few days apart. Following each reminder we received a few more responses.
    Setting up phone interviews followed a similar trend with respondents primarily replying shortly after a setup email was sent or not at all. To supplement our data with further interviews, we had begun to cold call applicants who had not already confirmed phone interview appointments, including those who didn't respond to the survey. Our early attempts at calling between 12pm and 1pm were unsuccessful as most respondents were away from their phones, presumably at lunch. We had slightly better success when we tried calling them again between the hours of 1pm to 3pm.
    In conclusion we found that emailing applicants first thing in the morning means that they see our emails first when they get into work. We also found that trying to contact anyone during their lunch hour is a doomed proposition.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Final Presentation in Boston!

Our final presentation was held in downtown Boston at the Courtyard Marriott. With delicious appetizers, came some nervous yet excited feelings before the presentations began. Many alumni, friends, sponsors, and families all gathered into a beautiful ballroom to listen to five presentations of the projects that had been completed over the course of A Term. Our group was first to present. We started off by introducing our project and going over a brief background of why the initiative was being done and why it was so important. We then explained the project goal and go into the methods, findings and results of our project. Our recommendations to the DOER concluded the presentation.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

DOER Practice Presentation

Today we practiced our final presentations at the DOER. In attendance was Seth Tuler, Dwayne Breger, Amy McGuire, Gerry Bingham and several other members of the Renewable division present by phone and in-person. We were excited to get this opportunity to be able to practice in front of a live audience before Thursday. Our thought was that if we can sell our project to the DOER staff, then Thursday will be that much smoother for us.

On the train ride, we were consistently editing our PowerPoint. When four people are reviewing any one type of media, there will always be a revision waiting on the next slide. Although its tedious, having three other sets of eyes continuously polish the slides and picks up things we as individuals may not have seen alone. Our biggest concern going in was making sure we were not providing too much background information to the DOER, however Amy McGuire ensured us that those in attendance know this is a practice for a more general audience.

Our actual presentation went off great. The transitions between slides were smooth and the team really found our groove right into the first slide. In part this is due to the feedback we received Monday from other IQP members. At our conclusion, we opened it up to feedback from the room. The finding that the DOER staff seemed to have expressed the most interest on is the demographics of awardees and respondents in terms of government types. They recommended we break it down to simple terms in terms of towns vs cities and looking at the primary applicants.

Other comments from the DOER were ensuring fonts, capitalization and colors of the PowerPoint are consistent throughout. The finding slides that includes both graphics and text were suggested to cut down to just graphics and filling in the information orally. We are in a great place for our presentation tomorrow, and we're going to be spending the rest of our day and night running through it in preparation.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Findings Under Construction

Suffolk Construction across from the DOER

Much like the building being constructed across from us, our findings are still under construction. Even though we are still working on collecting results, we are building up to recommendations for the DOER.

Our sponsor and advisor meeting today really helped us bring all of our findings together. For the meeting, we brought our findings for everyone to look over. Throughout the meeting, we were thinking about how to present our findings, both on paper and in our presentation. We realized that in order to make sure our findings are valid to the audience, we need more quotes and data to back them up. Our report will be useless if our audience doesn't believe our findings are valid.

On paper, we were very concerned with APA formatting. However, Professor VG told us that we could break the format for this chapter.

We also narrowed down exactly what our sponsors want as a deliverable. The DOER deliverable will include: Overview, Findings, & Recommendations. We figured out that this would not require any additional writing; we just need an executive summary of our intro, background & methods, our condensed Findings along with individual respondent summaries and our recommendations. All of these will be included in our final paper anyways.

We are looking forward to extracting more findings from our results and presenting them to our sponsors and advisors.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Practice Presentations

On Monday, each group had the opportunity to present their presentation in front of everyone to practice for our final which will be taking place in downtown Boston at the Courtyard Marriott. One advantage to practicing our presentation in front of these other groups was that we were able to receive feedback whether it had to do with our speaking skills, or just the overall presentation of our slides. The team was able to take many valuable comments to improve on for the final presentation. These practice presentations were very helpful from two different perspectives. From one perspective, you would be giving the presentation in front of the other groups. The other perspective was to see how other groups presented, body language, eye contact, speaking, etc. It is valuable to learn from your peers through what they made mistakes on or did really well. This sparks ideas of what to do and what not to do during the final presentation.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Weekend Planning for Practice Presentation

With the final presentation of out IQP fast approaching next Thursday, this weekend was largely dedicated to its planning. We first met on Saturday to begin laying out the outline of all of the topics our presentation needed to cover in order to fully convey the importance, scope and results of our work from the last two terms. The obvious choice was to base our current presentation on the one we had given at the end of D-term ID2050, while adding and heavily emphasizing the findings and results from our execution of the project plan this term. Due to the fact that the scope and goals of our project have nothing to do with the current goals and scope of the project, we had to re-work much of our background information and explanation of our project to address how our project changed.

After dividing remaining work amongst the group members, we convened our meeting to finish making slides individually. On Sunday we reconvened to put our slides together and practice our presentation together for the first time. This gave us the opportunity to begin ironing our flaws and informational inadequacies before our first test presentation to our advisers on Monday.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Toxic Tour

All the Boston IQP groups were able to come together on Thursday, October 7th for a Toxic Tour in Dudley Square. The teams met Professor Tuler at Ruggles (an orange line stop) to walk to Dudley Square to meet the tour guide. We first went into the ACE building to meet our tour guide, but we sat down at a table. We started by introducing ourselves individually and we had to say one word that came to mind when we heard the words environment and justice. A list was then formulated by the entire group. Then, we were split up into smaller groups to come up with a definition of Environmental Justice. Each group shared their version of a definition they came up with. We also had to choose an item in the basket and explain what it's significance was to the definitions that we came up with. My group happened to have safety goggles and we said that they were a vision into the future of environmental justice and how things are changing.

Old Bus Garage
 We then went outside to the different sites that the tour guide brought us to. After doing the two initial activities, the tour made a lot of sense. Dudley Square is a very poor part of Roxbury, where pollution filled the air and trash was piled up everywhere. Young children would grow up with asthma because of the amount of pollution in that certain area. Every one child with asthma anywhere else was six children who had it in Dudley Square.

Site on the Tour
After walking through Dudley Square and some of Roxbury, I felt that I had learned a lot. I had no idea that such a busy area that many people take to get into Boston had such an effect on the people and the community itself. Overall, I thought the tour was a great eye opener!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Grant Awards Invitation

The team was invited to attend the Community Clean Energy Resiliency Project Implementation Grant Awards at BCYF Curtis Hall Community Center in Jamaica Plains, MA. Our very own Sponsor, Amy, was in attendance and was recognized for her hard work. The team was fortunate enough to hear Maeve Valley Bartlett, Secretary of the Office of Environmental Affairs as well as Brian Swett, Chief of Environment and Energy of the City of Boston. They each spoke about the efforts in addressing climate change in MA as well as the first round grant winners.
Secretary Maeve Valley Bartlett

Poster of all Awardees & Grants Received
Being able to attend such an event was really a great experience for myself and my teammates. We were able to get a visual of each winner from the poster board at the event, which included (in order): Berkley and Taunton, Boston, Greater Lawrence Sanitary District, Northampton, South Essex Sewerage District, and Springfield. The total grant award was $7,401,500.

Listening to each person speak about the different impacts that the grant money they received will have on their communities was also very exciting to hear. I felt as though all the hard work that the team has been putting in through survey creation and conducting interviews almost came to life. I say this because each winner had a chance to speak and hearing each individual speak correlated with the interviewees we spoke to. It was almost like the positive feedback that we received from the interviewees.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Data Incoming

Our surveys about the application process have been making their way back to us fairly regularly over the last few days.These surveys were sent out last week to the town managers, energy directors, and any other officials responsible for getting their town's grant applications completed. We have had 13 respondents out of the 43 people who received the surveys.

As students we were able to identify with one of the trends in our survey results. A majority of the respondents did not write anything in the space given for free response. We know that whenever we are asked to write a block of text, but that block of text is optional, we opt out. So did many of our respondents. This leaves us with a question whose answer could help future projects. How do you get someone to actually fill out a free response?

Today in our meeting with our sponsors and advisers we discussed the possibility of cold-calling those applicants who did reply to the survey at all and trying to get on the spot interviews with them. This could bolster the amount of anecdotal evidence we have and improve the quality of the final results.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Cruising into Results!

John, Kayla, Tom & Ronelle on the front of the boat
Yesterday we went on the Boston Harbor Cruise with Seth and all of the other groups. It was really windy and choppy, but we all had fun. We found out very quickly that going on the front of the boat is fun, but only if you don't mind getting a little wet!

The water was very choppy due to a strong "westerly wind", according to the tour guide. We didn't think anything of it, until we all got splashed while leaning over the front of the boat. We all were covered in salt water by the time we got back to the dock.

The Carnival Splendor in Boston Harbor

We also got to see a huge cruise ship called the "Carnival Splendor" It only comes to Boston a handful of times a year and holds upwards of 30,000 people traveling to the Carribean. The tour guide decided to take a detour off of the regular route so we could get a closer look.

We have been getting a lot of responses on our surveys, which has been leading to setting up a lot of phone interviews. We realized that making an interview guide is extremely difficult because the survey responses are all different. With all of the interviews being set up, it seems like we are in for a busy week!

- Ronelle

Friday, September 19, 2014

Getting D.E.E.P. Into The Project

Today we were greeted with 4 completed surveys in our inbox as the Qualtrics survey was sent out automatically at 9:30am. While the team was slightly disappointed that there were no free response submissions, we were excited to see actual data and happy that the individuals responded so quickly. Each respondent was emailed requesting a follow-up phone interview and within the hour we had 2 scheduled phone interviews for next Friday.

Our primary goal for the day was calling the Connecticut DEEP office to follow-up on our email we had sent regarding information on the program evaluation they had done between round one and two of their Microgrid Grant & Loan program. This was our first time in the WPI IGSD conference room with a conference call, one of many more to come!

When the first call didn't work, the team realized we had no portable number for which we could leave people in a voice message if they wanted to connect back with us. We then took the time to create a Google Voice number that would forward to all of our phones so that a respondent can quickly return a phone call without sending an email, then allowing us to connect with them on the nearest landline. Once we setup our number, we tried the DEEP office for a 2nd time and were able to get in touch and begin the interview.

The interview provided us a number of useful insights. The first was that the DEEP had not sent out an official survey instead solicited feedback from the municipality in two ways. First, an email was sent containing a general list of questions and requesting a written response back to those questions. Second, municipality contacts and one guest acting as a technical consultant, were invited to a "town hall" meeting for a general forum. When asked which method proved most effective, the staff member responded that both were equally effective. The feedback from both of those sources was then reviewed by the program's team members for possible implementation in the 2nd round.

This led our team to think of a few things. The DEEP noted several times the effectiveness of having utility representatives available at webinars and reviewing the actual applications. It led us to explore the DOER's reasoning for not having such utility involvement. The fact that Connecticut was more focused on Microgrids? Would greater utility input have eased the application process? We also noted another, potentially future method of data collection, that of a public in-person forum. While the incentives may be low to those who have been awarded to attend, perhaps those who may apply will provide their feedback to their needs in such a forum.

The staff member was also able to send us the email invitations to the forum as well as the email with general questions. This allowed us to look at our verbiage, length, style etc and compare. We've certainly gained a lot and are continuing to gain more as we process the interview. As we are going through our methods chapter tonight, it's allowing us to think outside of the DOER to other ways this can be done.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Meetings, meetings, and more meetings!

Today, the team had their weekly sponsor/advisor meeting in the morning. Many topics were discussed regarding the interview questions that are being formulated to ask the individuals who are completing the survey that the team will be sending out in the next few days. One point that the advisors brought to our attention was that conducting a phone interview has a lot more preparation than it sounds, or than one would think. Personally, I had a few "ah-ha!" moments. As the team is starting to get more in depth of evaluating the DOER's program application process, more and more questions are being raised.

The team was referred to a piece of literature that contains many interview strategies of how to handle different responses from each interviewee. The team predicts that this will be a very helpful guide to phone interview success.

The interview process is actually very complicated, and one of the things the team learned today was that there are many aspects to the interview.

  • Starting the actual interview (Preamble)
  • Practicing a good amount of Mock interviews
  • Being able to ask the right questions in order to get the information you are looking for 
  • Stopping an interviewee during a long response to move onto the next question (if time is limited)
  • Dealing with responses that are very negative 
Above are just some of the necessary ideas to think of before conducting an interview that were discussed in today's meeting. 
The team found time to meet with Dwayne (The Renewables Division Director). We introduced ourselves individually and started asking questions. Dwayne was very helpful and invited the team to attend the big announcement of the round one winners, which will be held Thursday, September 25th at another site in Boston. 

Friday, September 12, 2014


Photo Credit: Ronelle LeBlanc
(Orange Line)

(Blue Line)

Our group has started to get the hang of commuting to Boston three days a week. We take the MBTA Commuter rail into Boston from Worcester and get off at BackBay Station. We then take two different T lines to get to the office. We take the Orange line, which we pick up at BackBay Station and then get off at State Street, then we grab the Blue line and get off at Bowdoin Station. Luckily Bowdoin Station is right across the street from the office, so it's just a short walk! We have been starting to get used to public transportation. On our first day of figuring everything out we ended up missing our train home, so knowing what time to leave the office and giving yourself enough time to take the T (or two of them!) is very important if you want to make the train home.

Monday, September 8, 2014

First Presentation Day!

Today, Monday, September 8th, we traveled to the Worcester Community Project Center and presented our workplan for our project to our Advisors and the other Boston IQP groups. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Getting Settled: The First Two Days

After arriving at our office building on Tuesday, September 2nd, our team met with our advisors and sopnsors for a 9am meeting. We were able to clarify what we will be doing for our project! After the meeting concluded, we were invited to an all staff meeting with the commissioner. Free food! Then we found our individual cubicles where we will each be working for the next 6 weeks. When the work day was over, getting back to the train was a little bit of a struggle. We are still figuring out what T lines to take and train times. Public transportation takes more planning than you think!

* The picture above is our office building


Friday, August 29, 2014

Hello from Team Grids!

Our team consists of four people: Kayla McAvoy, Thomas Buonomano, John Scarborough, and Ronelle LeBlanc. As a team, we will be commuting to Boston and working out of the Worcester Project Center to complete our IQP. We are working with the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources located on 100 Cambridge Street in Boston. As we start to get into our project, we will be posting pictures and descriptions of what we are accomplishing every week.