Manta Rays and Electric Eels Celebrate Polys’ 75th Rose Float

Written by Estero Bay News

October 24, 2023

Quinn Akemon, Cal Poly Rose Float president, said the 2024 Cal Poly universities Rose Parade entry, “Shock n’ Roll: Powering the Musical Current,” will be “bigger and more exciting than ever before.” The plant science senior from Agoura Hills, California, has been a part of the Rose Float program since her freshman year. The colorful float will feature a pair of giant manta rays swing and a trio of electric eels powering a rock ‘n‘ roll party on the ocean floor. Photo by Cal Poly Rose Float

Cal Poly Rose Float students officially packed up their half of the 2024 Tournament of Roses entry at the campus Rose Parade barn for transport to Cal Poly Pomona.

Giant manta rays sway and electric eels power a rock ‘n‘ roll party on the ocean floor celebrating Cal Poly universities’ 75th entry in the Pasadena Rose Parade on New Year’s Day. 

Led by a 16-foot purple manta ray gliding over a colorful reef, “Shock n’ Roll: Powering the Musical Current,” the 55-foot-long float depicts a rocking swim party on a coral reef with a trio of eels providing their current to electric guitars, a keyboard and turntable, honoring the 2024 Rose Parade theme: “Celebrating the World of Music.” 

Designed and built by students, the Cal Poly universities Rose Float is a joint effort of student teams at the California State Polytechnic University in Pomona and Cal Poly. Since their first entry in 1949, the combined team has won 61 awards, most recently the 2023 Extraordinaire Trophy, given to the creators of the parade’s most extraordinary float, including those 55 feet or larger. 

“The team was very interested in the idea of a universe in which animals and instruments evolved alongside each other in an underwater environment,” said Quinn Akemon, Cal Poly Rose Float president in San Luis Obispo. “We really wanted to emphasize the idea that the instruments and animals were sharing a community and had developed a symbiotic relationship through music. The animals provide power to the instruments through electricity, and the instruments play music that flows through the scene and brings the community together in song.” 

This year’s entry features a 27-foot vibrant yellow eel powering a guitar while his eel friends bob to the beat and two enormous manta rays glide over a colorful seafloor studded with starfish, anemones, urchins and a super-sized clam, that contains the phonograph. A piano keyboard swirls around the back half adding to the music ensemble. 

Designing and constructing the float is almost a yearlong process for the team and includes fabricating, building, adjusting and fine-tuning the mechanical, drive and animation systems; welding the structural supports and shaping the design elements; testing decorative material; sheeting and foaming before the students can begin adding final design elements.

 The Pomona campus traditionally builds the front half of the float base, while Cal Poly students build the back in San Luis Obispo. Design elements are shaped by both teams, who join the two halves in Pomona later in October. When complete, the float will be 55 feet long, 23 feet high and 20 feet wide. Students will continue to build the float through the fall while balancing their studies and in a huge push after finals until the floats are judged the day before the parade. 

“Between interesting mechanism development, exciting decorations materials and larger-than-life eels, rays and instruments, this will definitely be a float to remember,” said Akemon.

Each campus has a core team of about 30 students who lead the planning, construction, design and decoration of the massive project. 

This year’s parade theme, “Celebrating the World of Music,” was selected by Alex Aghajanian, the 2024 Tournament of Roses president. “In a world of different cultures, beliefs, hopes, and dreams, one language unites us all — music,” he said earlier this year.

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