The theme for this year’s Rose Parade is “Dream. Believe. Achieve.” For the students from Cal Poly Pomona and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, designing and building their float was an opportunity to do just that while showcasing the benefits of hands-on learning.
On the Stargrazers float, three very large cows work to make their “Hey Diddle Diddle” poem inspired dreams a reality. In a polytechnic twist to the poem, one cow is building a jet pack. Another is making sure his pack can achieve liftoff, and a third bovine is soaring above the clouds over the moon. The cat provides an assist working operations at mission control.
In addition to the moving cows, animated elements include the laughing dog rolling on his back to see such a delight and the jet pack in testing with bursts of fog and simulated fire made of dried yams and beets being blown around.
“With our float, we show the process and hard work that goes into achieving that which was a dream not all that long ago,” said Samuel Linkchorst, (’21, mechanical engineering) construction chair. “The nursery rhyme largely deals with the absurd and by bringing it to life in this float, we show how goals can be achieved even if they seem completely ridiculous at first.”
Linkchorst will be driving the float.
“In order to control the 20-ton float, I will have a regular steering wheel but, to control the gas, I have a joystick,” he said. “Our float drives on a hydraulics powered drivetrain. This is a slower than a normal car’s drive system, but it makes it easier to move the heavy float. Other than controlling the speed with a joystick, extremely limited visibility, the 54-foot length, the 16-mph top speed, and the 40,000 pounds of steel and flowers, it’s just like any other car, really.”
Each year, students from the two campuses build the float from the chassis up. The construction team builds much of the underlying structure of the float as well as all the necessary mechanisms to make the animations move.
The design team leads development of the float’s narrative, style, animation, and colors. Then each design lead is assigned a specific element to fabricate from pencil steel or foam, often with the help of team members and volunteers.
“Our main material is pencil steel that we shape using custom made tools, bolt cutters and chop saws, and weld usually using stick welding, into a sort of wireframe of the elements,” said Ryan Ward, Pomona’s design chair and fourth-year mechanical engineering major.
“Then we cover that wireframe with mesh screen or chicken wire, and sheet foam which allows the organic material to stick.”
The Deco team, led by Katherine Garcia, CPP deco chair and junior majoring in history, is in charge of deciding on and procuring all the living material, floral and nonfloral, that will cover the float.
This year, there was the added challenge that the California Cut Flower Commission, the universities’ usual partner, had disbanded. Fortunately, the American Growers Association has agreed to help, which has given the team access to floral material from a much larger geographic area.
Christopher Nares is Cal Poly Pomona’s Rose Float president and a mechanical engineering senior.
“The Flying cow embodies the achievement of dreams and is a physical representation of reaching all the goals you have set for yourself,” he said. “To me, there is nothing more spectacular. We’ve worked on this float for two years, and it’s really special to be able to create a float for the parade again.”
Stargrazers is being built by about 80 students from Cal Poly Pomona and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. During Deco Week in Pasadena, they are assisted by hundreds of volunteers. The schools have designed, built, financed and decorated a float for the Rose Parade since 1949. Their creations have received 60 awards.