The Cal Poly Rose Float has been jointly created at the Pomona and San Luis Obispo campuses since 1949. It is the only student-built float in the annual Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade. Cal Poly students have been building rose floats for over 70 years. The Cal Poly floats have led in introducing technology to the Parade, including the first use of hydraulics for animation in 1968, the first use of computer-controlled animation in 1978, the first use of fiber optics in 1982, animated deco in 2014, and the first to create a color-changing floral effect in 2017. The next area of concentration is acquiring new tools and equipment allowing the program to focus on current trends in planning, building, and execution from our new Rose Float Lab facility that opened in 2021.
As of January 1, 2022, the floats have won 61 awards having won the Award of Merit this year. This program is one of the longest consecutive running self-built entries in the parade, as well as the only "self-built" float designed and constructed entirely by students year-round on two campuses. They compete against professional float builders who manufacture entries for sponsors, many of them with development budgets approaching $1 million. This tradition continues today and marks the partnership between the two campuses.