By Hope Algeo
Every new year in Pasadena, thousands of people amass to admire the elaborate floats coming down Colorado Blvd.
However, not many people understand the mechanics that go into making a parade float work.
Alex Brod, a 5th year engineering major at Cal Poly Pomona, in a partnership with Kendall Searing, an electrical engineering graduate student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, were this year’s construction chairs.
The float starts off with a large, two-part blue beam that extends from the front to the back as the float’s base.
Beams are then bolted on to this blue base, on which a team of student volunteers welded together the foundational frame.
The foundational process of making a float function generally remains the same year after year.
However, as each team tries to come up with increasingly innovative themes and displays each year, there is a good amount of creativity that can change up that building process and create new, practical challenges for each Rose Float team.
With “Dreams Take Flight,” being this year’s theme for the float, the team faced a new challenge figuring out how to create moving planes and clouds on top of the structure, which they call “pods.”
They utilized hydraulics, ball bearings, and cantilevers to create their moving pod.
A cantilever, or a beam fixed by one end, along with added weight, allowed the float’s planes, which were made up of Styrofoam and lightweight pencil steel, to be suspended on the float.
Each piece of the float was built separately in the lab at Cal Poly Pomona.
After all the components were put together, the float was transported on surface streets all the way to Pasadena.
The students had been working in the Rosemont Pavilion warehouse since for a few days after the float was moved, taking care of any last minute technical and visual touches before volunteers arrived for Deco Week.
The design process begins with artist submissions, and the committee collectively chooses a winner.
Programs such as SolidWorks and more recently Rhino, which can create more accurate measurements and shapes that can be turned into the real thing.
It takes more than engineering skills alone to put the float together.
Since the program is run much like a business, students learn about teamwork, budgeting, time management, and leadership skills.
For many members, mainly committee members, the rose float can be a four-year learning process.
While the Rose Float Program enables engineering majors to apply their knowledge to building, it also enables newcomers to learn first-hand about the process through a partner system from those who are more experienced or knowledgeable.
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