Cal Poly Universities’ 75th Rose Float Wins Innovator Award


The onboard crew of the Cal Poly Universities Rose Float, Shock and Roll, following judging at the Rose Bowl.

The Cal Poly Universities’ Rose Float had a big showing in the 135th Rose Parade in Pasadena, winning the Crown City Innovator Award for the most outstanding use of imagination, innovation and technology.

The 2024 entry, “Shock n’ Roll: Powering the Musical Current,” marked the 75th Rose Float that Cal Poly Pomona and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo students have designed and built since the campuses began collaborating in 1949. This is the 62nd award for the student teams since the program started.

To capture the parade theme, “Celebrating a World of Music: The Universal Language,” the 55-foot-long, 20-foot-wide float depicts an underwater rock n’ roll swimming party complete with a giant purple manta ray gliding over a colorful coral reef and three yellow eels using their current to power electric guitars, a keyboard and a turntable. A piano wraps around the entire float.

The entry is decorated with flowers, fruit, vegetables and dried plant materials. For the encrusted coral-like texture, the team used dragon fruit. A mixture of lemons, oranges and grapefruits are used in the shelf coral. The sea urchins spines are made with purple carrots. Protea, a genus of South African flowering plants, and Lunaria, a cottage garden plant, also are used in the design.

This year, the team debuted a new animation system to control the mechanisms that make the various parts of the float move. Animations include a clamshell that opens and closes and eels gliding back and forth.

Cal Poly Pomona also was in the driver’s seat this year — literally — with Brooke Handschin, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student, piloting the float down Colorado Boulevard.

Handschin said that driving the float is a unique experience because she only has the ability to drive — steering, accelerating and reversing — but not the ability to turn on the engine. That’s the job of the drive engine operator and the observer, who are also in charge of handling the emergency brake.

“I’d say the hardest part about driving the float is using the joystick, which is super sensitive,” Handschin said. “If I want to move slow, I’d have to go really, really slow because if I just press it, the float is just going to jolt forward. Another difficult part is figuring out when to turn, but that’s what my navigator does, so it takes the load off me.”

Another Cal Poly Pomona connection at the 2024 Rose Parade is alumnus Alex Aghajanian (’79, business administration), president and chairman of the board of the 2024 Tournament of Roses. As president, Aghajanian oversees the operations of both the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl Game on New Year’s Day.

He said he feels a lot of pride in seeing his alma mater represented in the parade he holds so close to his heart.

“They get outstanding awards for the work that they do,” Aghajanian said of the Cal Poly Universities’ float program. “I’m very proud of my university.”

More Rose Float Videos and Stories

Read 2024 Rose Float: ‘They’re a Love Letter to Everyone Who’s Watching.’

Read 75th Cal Poly Rose Float Debuts at Parade on Jan. 1

Read Brooke Handschin in the Driver’s Seat for 2024 Cal Poly Rose Float

Watch Cal Poly Universities Rose Float Move Out 2024

Read CPP Alumnus Leads New Year’s Festivities as Tournament of Roses President and Watch Alex P. Aghajanian – Tournament of Roses President

Read Manta Rays and Electric Eels Celebrate Cal Poly Universities’ 75th Rose Float