Engineers Stage Mini Rose Parade

Engineers Stage Mini Rose Parade
The Cosmic Empire float makes its way under the bridge.
Jonathan Chia, a mechanical engineering major, makes adjustments the float.

What's small, moves at the speed of a crawl, plays ragtime music and looks like a miniature barbershop?

The answer: “A Cut Above the Rest,” the winning entry from the first ever Mini Rose Float Competition at Cal Poly Pomona.

Designed and constructed by first-year engineering students, the miniature moving barbershop, complete with dancing chairs and spinning polls, was one of seven entries that paraded down a walkway outside Building 17.

More than 100 freshmen competed in the Mini Rose Float Competition on March 12 to see which team could design and build the most parade-worthy vehicle.

But unlike the annual Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, the students' “rose floats” didn't include flowers or natural materials. Instead, students used Star Wars action figures, a model solar system made of foam, Nintendo controller, plastic alien toys and a space shuttle model. Each float was less than 2 feet long, a foot tall and moved just 5 feet per minute.

The parade was the culmination of a five-week project for students in EGR 100L, a first-year course that explores engineering careers. Students from all engineering disciplines work together in the design, planning and construction process.

“Students did an amazing job. You can see how the teamwork and hard work paid off,” says instructor Eric Lara, who teaches one of the sections.

The requirements were simple: Each float was to be powered by two AA batteries, run autonomously (no remote control), must include at least three animations and meet certain size restrictions. The floats had to drive over a half-inch speed bump, pass under a one-foot-high bridge and travel down a 30-foot parade route. In addition, the entries had to be aesthetically pleasing, although flowers weren't required.

Along the way, students learned some valuable lessons.

During the parade, the “Oldies But Goodies” float, which featured Mario Bros., Pac Man and Donkey Kong, started veering left after driving over the bump. Team member Ketton James said the motor and back wheels weren't aligned.

Abe Homsi, whose team built the “Super Mario” entry, says carving, mounting and gluing the float took a lot more time than students thought. When the parade started, the team had to fix a wheel that fell off and deal with non-operating animations.

“Next time, we'll actually plan it out more,” says Homsi, an aerospace engineering major. “We put a lot of planning into the theme, but didn't spend enough time on construction. It was tough but the results were pretty nice.”

Second place went to “Cosmic Empire.” The honorable mention went to “Space.”