Naythan Muro, a Fontana resident and a junior majoring in civil engineering at Cal Poly Pomona, is the chair of this year’s Cal Poly Pomona Rose Float design team.
This year’s float, “Far Out Frequencies,” features astronauts Morgan and Sally joining six aliens to form an impromptu band and communicate with music. Morgan, the astronaut in front, towers 16 feet about the ground. Sally is even higher, sitting on a “rock” arch with an alien on her shoulder.
The Cal Poly Universities’ float is the only student-designed and built float in the Rose Parade, and the 2019 float will be the 71st consecutive entry from the students from Cal Poly Pomona and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Through the years, they have won 58 awards.
The process from tear down of the prior year’s float to design, construction and completion takes about a year. The float’s blue frame chassis, including the brakes, steering and engines are kept untouched. The halves are separated, and the back returns to San Luis Obispo.
Through spring, the combined design team is leading the brainstorming process to reach a final design, deciding on the float’s music, how many and what type of elements they need to tell the story, and what types of animation and movement they want. They then begin shaping the various elements out of pencil steel. This year, about 50,000 feet of pencil steel was used in the float.
During Design Week, Dec. 15-22, 60 students from the Cal Poly Pomona and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Rose Float teams worked 12-15 hour days completing the elements of the float, welding, covering them with window screen (“screening”), painting and cocooning.
But the process of design and construction began in February.
As the design gets closer to being finalized, construction “begins to brainstorm mech ideas,” said Chris Maciosek, the Pomona construction chair and a senior majoring in majoring in mechanical engineering.
“We start to think about what can we move on this float that will add to the aesthetic and add to the story. It has to make sense, and it has to look cool. Obviously it has to work. Sometimes it’s our job to tell design or to tell deco [team], ‘No this is not physically or practically possible.’ We have to do something else," he said.
“We call the construction team ‘the place where dreams die,’” said Muro with a laugh.
They agreed that building the float is a really close collaboration between the design and construction teams.
Once the design was finalized in June, the construction teams began building the structures to support the giant astronauts and the base support structure, as well as the mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, and pneumatic and animation systems, “basically everything you can’t see,” said Maciosek.
In October, the students from San Luis Obispo drove their half of the float back down to Pomona, where they were reattached. The heavy metal arch that was constructed on the ground was lifted onto the float base and pod’s base becomes a unified whole.
Meanwhile, the design team has been at work researching and creating the various elements, from astronauts Morgan and Sally to their alien band mates. The alien Ketchup plays air guitar. Annie plays the saxophone. Lucy is sitting on Sally’s shoulder, while Mufasa and Scarlett play with the accordion. Tuba Head rides on the very back of the float.
Before the float left the Pomona campus, all of the elements were covered in widow screen which will hold the cocooning material, similar to a light foam layer.
Now that the float is in Pasadena, between 1,000 and 1,200 volunteers will join the Rose Float team to apply thousands of pounds of dry and fresh material to the bring the story of harmony through music to life in vivid color.
“Far Out Frequencies” will be the fifth Cal Poly Universities’ float that Maciosek has worked on and the third for Muro. For both, their interest in building and engineering began early and with legos.
“Working on Rose Float, I really learned design,” said Muro. “I learned what design you can build and more importantly, what you can’t. I learned how to be an engineer from beginning to end. I also learned to manage a team, to communicate more effectively, and to work with team members as executives. The entire team is 60 people, and we come from all different majors and backgrounds.”
For Maciosek, each float has been a different experience.
“This is an environment where it’s not possible not to learn. I’ve learned to operate and maintain all of the machinery, how to weld and how to manage a team,” he said. “I wouldn’t be where I am now without the people on past teams sharing everything they know.”
In the wee hours of Jan. 1, four members of the construction team will climb inside the float and maneuver it into parade position. As Pomona’s construction chair, Maciosek will be this year’s driver. Prior to piloting “Far Out Frequencies,” the biggest vehicle he has driven was a small U-Haul truck.