By Michael Yu, Jan. 25, 2022

The Cal Poly Rose Float team presented its Stargazers float during the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association’s Rose Parade on Jan. 1, strolling down Pasadena’s Colorado Boulevard. Just two hours before the parade started, the team of over 80 students from both Cal Poly Pomona and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo were presented with the Animation Award to recognize the hard work the team put into the animated aspects of the float.

This was the first time since 1984 the Cal Poly universities won the Animation Award. Construction Assistant Gauri Mhamunkar, a mechanical engineering student, shared how receiving the award reflected their team effort.

“It’s a really great award to have because it shows how much work the teams put in. We had tons of animation mechanisms on our float, from spinning stars to moving cows, and our teams would often go well into the night to make everything work,” said Mhamunkar.

The Cal Poly team works on a nearly completed rose float. (Courtesy of Ashley Yeama)

The floats are evaluated by a panel of three judges and the awards are separated into three criteria: float design, floral presentation and entertainment value. The Animation Award is contained in the float design category and celebrates outstanding use of animation.

The award was not easy to achieve, as the Cal Poly team faced many changes this year such as moving to a new lab and adjusting to the challenges that COVID-19 brought.

Located on the Cal Poly Pomona campus near Parking Lot H-1, and fundraised by donors, the new Rose Float Lab and Design Complex was built to give students a space to construct the floats. Hydraulics and Engine Assistant Logan Hauptman, a mechanical engineering student, shared what the new lab brought to the team.

“The old lab was old; there were 72 floats made there but the conditions weren’t great,” said Hauptman. “They had to work in the cold outdoors in December, and the new lab is indoors, heated and well-lit. It helped everyone work better.”

As COVID-19 continued to spread last year, the float team had to adapt to the everchanging circumstances. Cal Poly Rose Float President Christopher Nares, a mechanical engineering studentthat while the team faced some struggles, they were able to overcome them in an efficient and effective way.

The float this year was themed around the “Hey Diddle Diddle” nursery rhyme where the cow jumped over the moon. However, the team gave it a twist as the float depicted cows and various other animals building their own ways to jump over the moon, representing the polytechnic approach of the two Cal Poly campuses.

The rose float in its early stages of development. (Courtesy of Ryan Ward)
The rose float parked outside Parking Structure 1 after the parade. (Nicolas Hernandez | The Poly Post)

“It really embodied the Cal Poly ideal of dreaming up an idea, working hard, believing in yourself and then actually achieving that idea,” said Nares.

The float was adorned with over 20,000 flowers from chrysanthemums to carnations. The green fields of grass were made with flowers like Crane Feather Queen and Russian kales, while the cows were decorated with a variety of seeds, Chinese black moss and rice powder.

The Cal Poly Rose Float team was founded in 1948 and has since made 73 floats. Throughout these years, Cal Poly has been a leader in pioneering new technology. For example, they were the first team to utilize hydraulics for animation in 1968 and also the first to use animated decorations in 2014.

Throughout its long history, the Cal Poly team has won 61 awards. After winning the Director’s Award in 2020, this year’s team was able to continue their winning streak. After such a monumental achievement, Nares shared what it was like in the moment as he and the team received the Animation Award.

“You see everybody crying, hugging each other and being excited,” said Nares. “There are so many words to describe getting the award like excitement, sadness and relief but there are no words to describe the experience.”

To learn more about the rose float and its history, the campus community can visit the Cal Poly Rose Float website.


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