RADIANCE BLOG

Category: Chronicling Corona


Researching things that go boom

OK, so there may not be a lot of actual research going on in this post, but we at Corona have a wide variety of interests and sometimes like to show those off too!  One such interest is that I have been shooting professional fireworks shows for over 20 years.  I got my start in helping out my dad back when I was in high school (and when the regulations for the minimum age for helping on a show were more…loosely enforced).  Since then, it’s been a summer hobby of mine for years.

Though everyone knows what fireworks are like when they explode, I have found over the years that very few people have any idea what it takes to put on a good show!  Even for a relatively small show (I was in charge of the show in Lafayette, Colorado for 5 years), it takes a crew of at least 5-6 people an entire day to get ready for the big event.  Here’s a quick overview of the steps involved!

  1. Place and secure the mortars. Nearly all aerial fireworks are shot out of mortars (tubes), so the first step is to distribute large racks of mortars and secure them using braces, sand bags, or even burying them.  Professional fireworks are really powerful, and failing to properly secure the mortars to ensure safe operation can lead to disastrous results.
  2. Distribute and load the fireworks. This is possibly the easiest part of the process to understand, but it is also one of the most dangerous steps.  Crew members distribute the shells according to the plan and carefully drop them into their assigned mortar.  While every precaution is taken to ensure that devices are safe during this process, it’s not unheard of for a shell to ignite while being dropped into a mortar, so it’s important to keep body parts away from the top of a mortar!
  3. Wire everything up. Though it is possible to ignite a professional firework device by hand, a vast majority of shows are set off electronically.  That doesn’t necessarily mean computerized, but it means that an electric match is inserted into the fuse of the firework so that it can be lit from a safe distance.  (If you’ve ever fired off a model rocket, it’s the same concept.)  Once the e-matches are inserted, each is wired to a “rail” with a designated ID number so that we can set off that shell exactly when we want to.
  4. Connect the firing board and test everything out. I often describe the function of a firing board as being like a big kids’ version of the game of Operation.  There is a stylus with a metal tip and a wire coming off of it, and when you touch the stylus to a terminal, it completes the circuit, igniting the e-match and sending the shell airborne.  Before we do that, however, we always test everything out to make sure that our wiring is in good shape to shoot the show.
  5. If everything goes well, everything will be loaded, wired, and tested with plenty of time to spare (since weather or other issues sometimes cause delays).  Most of the time, though, there is time to sit, relax, and enjoy a nice, summer evening.
  6. Shoot the show! This part is just as fun for the crew as it is for the audience.  All of our hard work in the hot sun pays off for 20-30 minutes as we get to satisfy our inner pyromaniacs and blow up a ton of stuff in a short time!  It’s always a blast (pun intended).
  7. Clean it up and go home! You’d be surprised at how much work goes into cleaning up after a fireworks show.  Not only do we have to haul all of the equipment back into a truck that same night, we also have to safely inspect the shoot site to ensure that no fireworks are left in mortars and that there aren’t any “dud” shells that came down in the area.  It’s not the most glamorous part of the show and usually takes at least 2-3 hours, so the crew usually doesn’t leave until well after midnight.

Fireworks shows are a lot of fun for both the audience and the crew, but it is definitely a ton of work that requires a special type of worker to enjoy.  (Spoiler alert: fireworks crews aren’t paid like kings.)  I hope that this inside look will help you to appreciate all of the work that went into making your 4th of July holiday memorable!


Corona presents on marijuana research at upcoming conference

 

We are pleased to announce that our research supporting Summit County’s (Colorado) safety program for youth marijuana access has been accepted for a poster presentation at the annual APHA (American Public Health Association) conference in November.  If you plan to attend, please stop by and learn about our work.  Our project abstract is shown below.

Learning Areas

Summit County, Colorado, is located among the high peaks of the Colorado Rockies, immediately west of the Continental Divide. Our elevation ranges from a low of 7,947 feet above sea level up to 14,270 feet at Gray’s Peak. Included within the county are six municipalities, four major ski areas, and major wilderness areas. About 80% of the land in the county is federal public land.

Whereas Colorado leads the nation in developing marijuana policy, Summit County leads Colorado. As a major recreation area and larger mountain community, youth in the area are exposed to a marijuana-friendly and marijuana-tolerant culture. No fewer than five retail marijuana dispensaries do business in this tourism-oriented community of 30,000 permanent residents. So how does one prevent marijuana use among youth in such an environment? While marijuana remains illegal for people under 21, it is now easy and legal for adults to possess marijuana, and easy access among adults may lead to easier access (knowingly or illicitly) among youth.

Summit County decided that a campaign aimed at preventing youth access to marijuana would be a good start. But to do this, we needed to know how adults viewed the risks of marijuana use in a number of contexts, to help enlist their participation in this cause. Via surveys, we learned from parents, young adults, and others about how they viewed marijuana risks both for adults and for youth. We examined several facets of risk and safety, including comparisons of marijuana to other legal and illegal drugs, safety in a recreational context (e.g. while hiking, biking, driving, skiing, etc.), and opinions about the safe storage and disposal of marijuana products to prevent unintended exposure of youth to them.

The results will inform a campaign aimed at recruiting adults into a movement to help limit access to youth.

Learning Areas

  • Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
  • Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
  • Program planning
  • Public health or related education
  • Public health or related research
  • Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives

Formulate a strategy for a public campaign to educate about risks of marijuana. Formulate a strategy for a public campaign to promote safe management of marijuana use where it occurs. Define what safe usage means in the minds of users and develop education strategies for areas where public perceptions of risk may differ from known risks. Compare perceptions of safe marijuana use against those of other legal and illegal drugs.


State of Our Cities and Towns – 2017

For many years, Corona has partnered with the Colorado Municipal League to conduct the research that is the foundation of their annual State of Our Cities and Towns report. CML produced the following short video, specifically for municipal officials, about the importance of investing in quality of life:

Learn more, view the full report, and watch additional videos on the State of Our Cities website.


What do you do for a living?

‘Tis the season for holiday get-togethers and for the time honored question of, “So, what exactly do you do for a living?” I won’t speak for all my fellow coworkers or those who loosely fall within our industry, but it’s a perpetual question made worse because our jobs don’t fall into what I call, “the bucket of childhood career fair jobs.” When you say you’re a firefighter, nurse, airline pilot, and so on, people know instantly what you do (ok, they probably don’t really know but they think they know, and that’s what matters here). My wife is a veterinarian. I tell people that and it instantly clicks. (Note, I actually say she’s a small animal surgeon specializing in oncology cases, and I often get puzzled looks.)

So, what do I (we) do? In fact, if you pose that question around our office, you’re likely to get different answers, even save for the fact that our job titles, duties, and specializations vary a little. Ask our clients that question and whatever we did last for them will likely be their response.

For any given day, project, or client, we may be a market research firm, strategic thinkers, data analysts, consultants, evaluators, or social scientists, to name a few. Easy enough to explain, especially with a cocktail in hand at your aunt’s house, right?

Or, some may be tempted to say that we facilitate retreats or do surveys and focus groups. Technically not incorrect, but it’s like defining Colorado by the mountains. Not wrong, but it really misses a lot of the great aspects of the State.

I always instruct new hires at Corona to start broad then hone in on what is relevant to the person you’re talking to. Perhaps, “We’re a research and consulting firm specializing in the nonprofit and government sectors,” followed by, “for example, we’ve done [something more concrete that they may be able to grasp].” Even that probably isn’t perfect, but that’s why we have a holiday season every year to try again.


Research Without Borders

While Corona Insights is based in Denver, we have conducted research studies in nearly every state in the U.S. as well as many nationwide studies.  We certainly have an expertise in understanding what makes Colorado tick, but the fact of the matter is that today’s technological landscape allows us to effectively design and manage research studies all over the world from our Denver headquarters.  Here is a brief overview of some of the tried and true methodologies that can be conducted from anywhere, as well as some of the more innovative methodologies that have expanded our ability to conduct research remotely in recent years.

  • Mail Surveys Though we at Corona are experts in how to effectively design, manage, and analyze the results of market research, we often rely on partners to assist with some of the fieldwork required for market research. For example, when conducting mail surveys, we rely on a traditional direct mail services vendor to print thousands of surveys and mail them to respondents.  In most cases, we use our long-term, Denver-based partner to provide these services since first-class mail rates are the same no matter where you are sending to and from.  However, should there ever be a need to have a local presence for a mail survey, we are quite comfortable in researching and identifying additional partners in other markets as needed.
  • Telephone Surveys – Similar to mail surveys, Corona rarely conducts the actual phone calls required for a telephone survey in-house. Instead, we rely on phone room vendors to supply the manpower necessary to make thousands of phone calls and complete hundreds of interviews with respondents.  Again, there is very little need to have a local presence for a telephone survey since long-distance calling rates are a negligible cost in telephone surveys compared. However, if we need to have a local presence, we have partners with locations in nearly every state in the U.S.
  • Online Surveys – As one might expect, online surveys are very simple to conduct anywhere in the U.S. (or even the world) from our main office. For our projects that utilize internal lists of customers provided by our clients, this process is straightforward.  Even when we don’t have lists of customers, however, Corona has relationships with a number of worldwide online panel vendors that have databases of survey respondents of every shape and size.  Want to conduct a survey of people with an interest in fitness in China?  Corona can do that from right here in Denver.
  • Focus Groups – All of the tasks necessary to conduct a focus group (from designing the group structure, to recruiting participants, to conducting the groups, to analyzing the results) can be done anywhere. When traditional, in-person focus groups are desired, it is relatively easy to work with local focus group facilities to host the group and simply fly in one of our experienced moderators to conduct the group.  However, when being there face-to-face isn’t necessary, innovative technologies such as online video focus groups allow us to replicate the interaction of a traditional focus group without having to go anywhere.  Similar to a video-conference using software such as Skype, we use specialized software that allows us to talk with participants via video chat, complete with the ability to have “invisible” observers, interactive activities, and much more.

These really just scratch the surface of Corona’s toolkit of methodologies.  Depending on the project, we might recommend online discussion boards, telephone interviews, video ethnographies, and more to best balance the ability to gather solid, actionable data about a topic and the budget required to do so.  No matter where your customers or stakeholders are in the world, Corona can help you understand them from right here in Denver.



Research on Research: Boosting Online Survey Response Rates

David Kennedy and Matt Herndon, both Principals here at Corona, will be presenting a webinar for the Market Research Association (MRA) on August 24th.

The topic is how to boost response rates with online surveys. Specifically, they will be presenting research Corona has done to learn how minor changes to such things as survey invites can make an impact on response rates. For instance, who the survey is “from”, the format, and salutation can all make a difference.

Click here to register. You do need to be a member to view the webinar. (We hope to post it, or at least a summary, here on our blog afterwards.)

Even if you can’t make it, rest assured that if you’re a client at least, these lessons are already being applied to your research!



DIY Tools: Network Graphing

Analyzing Corona’s internal data for our annual retreat is one of my great joys in life.  (It’s true – I know, I’m a strange one.)  For the last few years I’ve included an analysis of teamwork at Corona.  Our project teams form organically around interests, strengths, and capacity, so over the course of a year most of us have worked with everyone else at the firm on a project or two, and because of positions and other specializations some pairs work together more than others.  Visualizing this teamwork network is useful for thinking about efficiencies that may have developed around certain partnerships, and thinking about cross-training needs, and so on.  The reason I’m describing this is that I’ve tried out a few software tools in the course of this analysis that others might find useful for their data analysis (teamwork or otherwise).

For demonstration purposes, I’ve put together a simple example dataset with counts of shared projects.  In reality, I prefer to use other metrics like hours worked on shared projects because our projects are not all of equal size, and I might have worked with someone on one big project where we spent 500 hours each on it, and meanwhile I worked on 5 different small projects with another person where we logged 200 hours total.

But to keep it simple here, I start with a fairly straightforward dataset.  I have three columns: the first two are the names of pairs of team members (e.g., Beth – Kate, though I’m using letters here to protect our identities), and the third column has the number of projects that pair has worked on together in the last year.  To illustrate:

My dataset contains all possible staff pairs.  We have 10 people on staff, so there are 45 pairs.  I want to draw a network graph where each person is a vertex (or node), and the edge (or line) between them is thicker or thinner as a function of either the count of shared projects or the hours on shared projects.

This year I used Google Fusion Tables to create the network graph.  This is a free web application from Google.  I start by creating a fusion table and importing my data from a google spreadsheet.  (You can also import an Excel file from your computer or start with a blank fusion table and enter your data there.)  The new file opens with two tabs at the top – one called Rows that looks just like the spreadsheet I imported and the other called Cards that looks like a bunch of notecards each containing the info in one row of data.  To create the chart, I click the plus button to the right of those tabs and select “Add chart”.   In the new tab I select the network graph icon in the lower left, and then ask to show the link between “Name 1” and “Name 2” and weight by “Count of Shared Projects”.  It looks like this:

There are a few things I don’t love about this tool.  First, it doesn’t seem to be able to show recursive links (from me back to me, for example).  We have a number of projects that are staffed by a single person, and being able to add a weighted line indicating how many projects I worked on by myself would be helpful.  As it is, those projects aren’t included in the graph (I tried including rows in the dataset where Name 1 and Name 2 are the same, but to no avail).  As a result, the bubble sizes (indicating total project counts) for senior staff tend to be smaller on average, because more senior people have more projects where they work alone, and those projects aren’t represented.  Also, the tool doesn’t have options for 2D visualizations, so if you need a static image you are stuck with something like the above which is quite messy.

However, the interactive version is quite fun as you can click and drag the nodes to spin the 3D network around and highlight the connections to a particular person.

Another tool option that I’ve used in the past (and that is able to show recursive links and 2D networks) is an Excel template called NodeXL.  You can download the template from their website – you’ll need to install it (which requires a restart of your computer) – and then to use it just open your Windows start menu and type NodeXL. Instructions here.  I had some difficulties using it with Office 2016, but in Office 2013 it worked quite well.

If you try these out, share your examples with us!