Every first day of the year since 1890, vibrant, flower-covered floats proudly parade through the streets in Pasadena’s iconic Tournament of Roses Parade to celebrate the new year.

The number of street spectators has reached as much as 700,000, and the number of its global television audience reaches the millions. Locals, out-of-state visitors and international visitors all crowd the street just to catch glimpses of the gorgeous array. And the two Cal Poly universities, Cal Poly Pomona and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, have had the opportunity every year since 1949 to collaborate and build one awe-striking rose float for all the world to see.

The year 2018 marked Cal Poly’s 70th entry to the parade, called “Dreams Take Flight” that adhered with the year’s theme, “Making a Difference.”

The student-built float featured a circling plane mechanism with a koala, red panda and otter manning their planes, and it received the Past President Award for most outstanding innovation in using floral and non-floral materials. The award was Cal Poly’s 58th.

“Dreams Take Flight” was Cal Poly’s entry into the 2018 Tournament of Roses and adhered to the year’s theme of “Making a Difference.” (Courtesy of PolyCentric)

Beside from being a beautiful spectacle, the Cal Poly universities’ rose float is exemplary of the learn-by-doing philosophy. Students can learn floral design, how to engineer animation mechanisms, how to engineer hydraulics and how to weld, skills they can take with them to their future careers or simply in life.

Most importantly yet, their contributions to the final product are recognized by millions of people all over the world.

Building these floats is not an easy task, however. It’s a year-long process that begins from when the parade ends until the next parade begins.

The Rose Float Club first reaches out to the community for float designs. Once a design is finalized, the design period lasts until summertime. Then from summertime onward, the two schools split half of the float to work on until they join the two parts in mid-October at CPP.

Cal Poly SLO travels to CPP every weekend afterward to continue building until it’s time to transport to Pasadena for the parade.

This year, the club will be equipped with the new 14,000-square-feet Rose Float Lab Design Complex that will better cater to the needs of float production, offering more indoor and outdoor workspace, equipment, tools and protection from the outside elements.

All students are welcome to help out with the float regardless of experience, for every helping hand is valuable.

Especially with the new lab, it may be worth to attend a Rose Float Club meeting or a lab day or two — it’ll surely give a new meaning to seeing the float cruise down the street on New Year’s Day.

This article was originally published in the 2018 Bronco Guide.

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