CCFC / Courtesy Photo

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Pomona’s vivid and animated float, titled “A New Leaf,” received the Founders’ Trophy at the 128th Rose Parade on Monday.

The Founders’ Trophy is awarded to the most beautiful float built and decorated by a community or organization volunteers. This year, Cal Poly was up against six other volunteer groups.

“Receiving the Founders’ Trophy means that we brought our concept to life and fulfilled our vision of a show-stopping float that excelled among our self-built peers,” President of the San Luis Obispo Float Team and bioresource and agricultural engineering senior Philippe Napaa said.

Made up of several gigantic chameleons on a 55-foot long, 30-foot tall float, this year’s design featured an animation technique that displayed a rotating color of flowers on the chameleons. Using 5,000 moving parts, the mechanism shifted 2,000 carnations changing from yellow to orange.

However, the float’s animation engine unexpectedly shutdown just minutes before rounding the corner where the floats are filmed for television. The majority of viewers were not able to see the full extent of the animations.

“Despite this disappointment, our float still looked amazing and we are proud to have represented our universities,” Napaa said.

Tom Zasadzinski / Courtesy Photo

This year’s float was decorated with 9,500 roses, 4,200 Gerbera daisies and 32,500 button mums. The display used approximately 95 percent California flowers that earned a “California Grown” designation from the California Cut Flower Commission.

Making the float

Each year, the team begins working on the float after the Tournament of Roses announces the theme for the upcoming parade two weeks into January. Cal Poly takes submissions of float ideas from the general public, and once the design is picked, students from both Cal Poly universities spring into action to create mechanical and artistic scale drawings.

Meanwhile, other students work in Cal Poly’s own flower fields growing the plants that will cover the entire exterior of the float. They also work to get flower donations from California farmers.

Each campus works on their half of the float separately in the beginning. Come October, all the animation mechanisms as well as the shape of the float are complete and the San Luis Obispo team travels to Pomona to join their half with Pomona’s.

YouTube video

By December, the Tournament of Roses inspects the float twice. It is then moved to a tent in Pasadena where students work non-stop for a week to add freshly harvested flowers to the exterior.

In all, there are approximately two dozen students on each campus that serve in leadership positions for the Rose Float program with an additional 75 student participants from each campus.

The student teams watched in the stands as their work rolled through Pasadena, viewed by over 700,000 people in person and an estimated 100 million on TV.

“When the float passed by the mass of Cal Poly students and supporters in the stands, a huge cheer erupted and didn’t stop until the float had passed,” Napaa said. “All of our students have been working tirelessly for over a year to build this float from the ground up, so seeing it beautifully completed was an amazing feeling.”

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