The 2024 Cal Poly Universities’ “Shock n’ Roll: Powering the Musical Current” entry will make its debut as it cruises down Colorado Boulevard for the 135th Tournament of Roses Parade on Jan. 1. This will mark the 75th Rose Float that Cal Poly Pomona and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo students collaboratively designed and built.
Since 1949, both campuses have worked together to create the joint Cal Poly Universities’ Float, which is the only student-built and student-designed float in the annual parade watched by tens of thousands in person and millions worldwide.
“For seventy-five years, the rose float has stood as a testament to the power of creativity, collaboration, and community — and showcases the power of polytechnic education for the world to see,” University President Soraya M. Coley said. “I’m so proud of the students and alumni who have helped this incredible program thrive, and I look forward to seeing what they continue to achieve for seventy-five more years to come!”
To encapsulate the 2024 parade theme, “Celebrating a World of Music,” the Cal Poly Universities team created a float mimicking a rock n’ roll swimming party, featuring a giant purple manta ray gliding over a colorful coral reef and three yellow eels providing their current to electric guitars, a keyboard, and turntable.
The biggest eel out of the three is 27 feet long and powers a Gibson Flying V guitar, while his two companions vibe to the beat. To add to the musical theme, the piano wraps across the entirety of the float.
The coral reef on the float is topped with sea stars, anemones, sea urchins, and a super-sized clam with the manta ray swimming over it.
Though the float is mostly decorated with flowers, a variety of fruit and vegetables are also used. Dragon fruit is utilized in encrusted coral to add a coral-like texture, which is usually difficult to emulate by carving foam, decorations chair and second year landscape architecture student Bailey Beene said.
In addition, purple carrots are used to make the spins of the sea urchins. Lunaria, a cottage garden plant, is highlighted on the inside of the clam to give a reflective aspect when it opens and closes throughout the parade. Protea, a genus of South African flowering plants, is present in arrangements and mixed into the coral. A mixture of citrus including lemons, oranges, and grapefruits are on the shelf coral.
This year, the team has a new animation system that allows them to control the mechanisms, which are the parts of the float that are moving. This system helps the students easily program and record the float’s animations, one of which includes the clamshell that opens and closes as the float is being driven down the road.
Other animations consist of the eels moving back and forth like they’re gliding through water.
“The manta ray at the front is 12 feet long by 17 feet wide,” Cal Poly Pomona Rose Float President and fourth-year electrical engineering student Matthew Rodarte said. “To see something moving that big and moving that gracefully is exciting.”
The team won the Tournament of Roses’ Rose Float Extraordinaire Award for their “Road to Reclamation” 2023 float and strive to win the Sweepstakes Award for 2024.
“We try to one-up ourselves every year, and we killed it last year,” Cal Poly Pomona Rose Float construction chair and fourth-year mechanical engineering student Brooke Handschin said. “But we try to figure out how we can make things even better than last year.”
To make improvements, the team has worked on syncing the float’s animations to music this year. They are also incorporating distinct systems to control various mechanisms. The piano keys will be powered pneumatically, the subwoofer speaker cone will be powered with an electronic motor, and everything else will be powered hydraulically.
Designing a 55-foot long, 23-foot high, and 20-foot-wide float does have its challenges. This year’s concern is the design of the piano.
“The piano is huge, takes up the span of the entire float, has a lot of different angles and faces multiple directions,” Cal Poly Rose Float Design Chair and fifth year industrial engineering student Ashley Yeaman said. “We have lights glowing through sections of the piano, so our challenge was to figure out the type of material we can use to allow the light to shine through.”
After multiple rounds of testing, the design department decided the best solution was utilizing a thin flexible plexiglass. The glass not only allows the light to shine through the piano, but it also follows along the different angles, twists, and shapes across the entirety of the instrument, Yeaman said.
Upon completion of all elements of the float, the team enlists the help of all members, students, and volunteers to put flowers on the float during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, dubbed “Deco Week,” before the float gets judged and sent down its way to Colorado Blvd.
To commemorate their 75th anniversary, the newly installed Cal Poly Rose Float operations department that is responsible for providing food to the team during weekend lab days, quality of life, social events and supporting merchandise, created a special line of merch. It includes a 75th anniversary Rose Float book, builder pins, hoodies, and tote bags.
“For our 75th anniversary hoodies and tote bags, we designed it so that it could showcase one float from each decade, starting from our first float ‘Rocking Horse’ in 1949 to our last float ‘Road to Reclamation’ in 2023,” Cal Poly Pomona Rose Float Operations Chair Alex Jamgochyan said.
Merchandise is sold on this website: https://cal-poly-rose-float.square.site/
HOW TO WATCH
The 2024 Rose Parade presented by Honda will be held on Jan. 1, starting at 8 a.m. on Colorado Blvd. In Pasadena.
- In person: Arrive early, possibly the day before, to secure your spot along the street or pay for premium seating tickets.
- Network and cable television: KTLA-5, NBC-4, ABC-7, Univision-34, The Cowboy Channel and Rural Free Delivery (RFD) TV
- Streaming: NBC/Peacock, KTLA, ABC and Univision channel apps; Hulu+ Live TV, YouTube TV, DirecTV Stream, and Sling TV