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Cal Poly Float Wins Past Presidents Trophy at 2018 Rose ParadeĀ®
January 01, 2018

Universities’ Float ‘Dreams Take Flight’ Honored as California-Grown Certified for the Seventh Consecutive Year

Cal Poly universities’ milestone 70th float, “Dreams Take Flight,” received the Past Presidents Trophy for the most outstanding innovation in the use of floral and non-floral materials at the 129th Rose Parade® held New Year’s Day.

The float, designed and built by teams of students from Cal Poly and California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, invited onlookers to take flight on the airplane wings of a trio of cuddly critters — a koala bear, sea otter and red panda. It celebrated the 2018 parade theme, “Making A Difference,” honoring those individuals in our communities who act in selfless, generous and kind ways to benefit others.

Fifth-year mechanical engineering major Ali Harake, president of the SLO campus Rose Float Committee, especially likes to point out that the colorful menagerie are “animals you’d typically not see together,” reflecting the diversity of the 61-member Rose Float Committee in terms of both majors and backgrounds. “We’re one of the most diverse teams on our campus,” he said.

 “Dreams Take Flight” was among 44 floats in this year’s parade.

The 18- by 54-foot entry used animation to breathe life into its trio of amiable aviators as they swooped and swayed amid the clouds. Paula the Koala, the largest element on the float, flew a striped-red biplane, controlling the craft’s flaps, rudders, ailerons and elevators as she glance between the sky and the audience. She led Ollie the Otter’s seaplane, which emerged from a cluster of moving clouds, while Rusty the Red Panda soared behind, banking left to right, some 28 feet above the float.

The concept was selected from more than 100 ideas submitted last spring by students, local communities, alumni and friends of the Cal Poly Rose Float program.

The design included a nod to Cal Poly’s rich parade history. Stamps of past Cal Poly universities floats were depicted on the planes in tribute.

The float was adorned with thousands of colorful blooms — including 10,000 roses, 10,000 Gerbera daisies and 1,000 irises. The bulk of the float was festooned with mums: 12,000 chrysanthemums; 7,500 yellow button mums; 3,000 green button mums; 1,000 orange cushion mums; and 500 purple cushion mums.

Cushion mums, button mums, lemons, oranges and ilex berries covered the airplanes. A dense border of red roses surrounded the cockpit of the koala’s scarlet plane. The animals’ fur was a combination of buffalo grass, redwood bark, sheet moss and gorilla hair. Side elements used a combination of dry and fresh materials. Dried coconut and baby’s breath brought out the fluff in the clouds. Ti leaves, statice and strawflower decorated the kites and paper airplanes.

“This is a fantastic award, not one that we’ve ever won before,” said Josh D’acquisto, Cal Poly’s Rose Parade float advisor. “It’s huge.

“The students put an exceptional amount of planning and effort into their floral plan this year creating a fading effect from the front of the float to the rear, where it’s faded from yellow to orange to peach to pink to purple in this fantastic blend of roses and Gerber daisies. I think that played into it.”

“We’re pumped,” said mechanical engineering major Sara Novell, the engine operator who rode on the float with a team of other students.

The schools were also honored for their commitment to California’s flower farmers. It’s the seventh consecutive year the float has earned the “California Grown” designation from the California Cut Flower Commission, which recognizes an entry decorated with at least 85 percent of cut flowers and plant materials from the Golden State.

The Cal Poly universities’ float has about 97 percent of cut flowers and plant materials from California, including white and lavender statice grown by students on the San Luis Obispo campus.

The schools enjoy a rich history in the Tournament of Roses® Rose Parade. Cal Poly universities has the sixth highest number of appearances behind the city of Los Angeles (120 appearances), South Pasadena (108), and the cities of Alhambra (90) and Burbank and Sierra Madre (both 86 years).

Since the fall of 1948, students from San Luis Obispo and Pomona have come together across 240 miles to produce the float — one of only six self-built entries — for Pasadena’s signature event. Since then, the two schools’ entries have earned more than 50 awards, including the Founders’ Trophy for the most beautiful float built and decorated by volunteers from a community or organization in 2017.

In Cal Poly Rose Float history, Pomona student Don Miller is credited with spearheading the construction of the first entry. Built in the fall of 1948 in just 90 days with a $258 budget, an exciting Cal Poly tradition was born on New Year’s Day 1949, when an enormous rocking horse rolled onto Colorado Boulevard.

In the years since “Childhood Memories” demonstrated the creative teamwork of the Pomona and San Luis Obispo campuses, the Cal Poly universities Rose Float Program has established itself as an award-winning leader in the New Year’s Day extravaganza that is eagerly watched by hundreds of thousands of people along the parade route and on television by an international audience estimated at more than 100 million.

In addition to the scores of trophies received over the years, the program has received countless accolades for introducing innovations into its float designs including computer-controlled animation, hydraulic systems and cleaner emissions with propane.

A symbol of the partnership between the two campuses is the float’s chassis, whose front and back halves are joined mid-October each year in Pomona to officially unite both the float and the teams.

Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing ethos is exemplified in all facets of the float program, as students from throughout all six of the university’s colleges get hands-on experience welding, metal shaping, machining, foam carving, woodworking, painting and flower harvesting — ultimately competing against professional float builders with corporate sponsorships.

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About Cal Poly

Founded in 1901 and part of the renowned California State University system since 1960, Cal Poly is a nationally ranked, four-year, comprehensive polytechnic public university located in San Luis Obispo, Calif. Known for its Learn by Doing approach, small class sizes and open access to expert faculty, Cal Poly is a distinctive learning community whose 21,000 academically motivated students enjoy an unrivaled hands-on educational experience that prepares them to lead successful personal and professional lives. For more information, visit

About the Pasadena Tournament of Roses®

The Tournament of Roses is a volunteer organization that hosts America’s New Year Celebration® with the Rose Parade® presented by Honda, the Rose Bowl Game® presented by Northwestern Mutual and a variety of accompanying events. 935 volunteer members of the association will drive the success of 129th Rose Parade themed “Making A Difference,” on Monday, Jan. 1, 2018, followed by the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the 104th Rose Bowl Game. For more information, visit Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

2018 Rose Parade Float Unveiled
August 16, 2017

Cal Poly's newly unveiled 2018 Rose Float design features baby animals flying prop planes amid a whimsical landscape. What’s not to like? Fifth-year mechanical engineering major Ali Harake, president of the SLO campus Rose Float Committee, especially likes to point out that the baby koala, red panda and sea otter are “animals you’d typically not see together,” reflecting the diversity of the 61-member Rose Float Committee in terms of both majors and backgrounds. “We’re one of the most diverse teams on our campus,” he said. As is tradition, the float, titled "Dreams TAke Flight," will be completely designed and constructed by students from Cal Poly and their counterparts at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona. Last year, the Cal Poly universities’ colorful float of animated chameleons, called “A New Leaf,” received the Founders’ Trophy. Read the full story in The Tribune


Cal Poly Paper Wins Best Diversity Paper Award from ASEE
August 01, 2017




Emily Liptow, an AmeriCorps VISTA member who's worked closely with Cal Poly Engineering to promote diversity and inclusion, was a recent co-recipient of the ASEE (American Society for Engineering Education) Best Diversity Paper award.

The paper is co-authored with Coleen Carrigan, assistant professor of gender, race, culture, science and technology, and is based on her groundbreaking research in the area of engaging engineers in changing their culture. The study focuses on a novel approach for breaking through the "inclusion resistance" that pervades the technology and engineering fields. Read more at

Cal Poly College of Engineering Announces 2017 Outstanding Students
June 05, 2017

Cal Poly College of Engineering announced its 2017 Outstanding Students at the Engineering Project Expo on June 2. The students included the top senior for academic excellence; three graduating seniors honored for service to the college, university and community; and the outstanding volunteer of the year.

Environmental engineering senior Kimberly Pugel from Grass Valley, Calif., was recognized as the college’s top graduating senior for academic excellence. With a 3.91 grade point average, Pugel made the Dean’s List every quarter except winter 2017, when she had fewer units, and she made President’s List, which recognizes undergraduates who have been on the Dean's List at least three quarters of the academic year, three times since she entered Cal Poly in 2013. While a student, Pugel interned at Arcadis coordinating remediation field activities, and served as a project lead for the Global Waste Research Institute winning third place at 2015 Algae Biomass Summit in Washington, D.C., for her research. Active with Engineers Without Borders – Cal Poly, Pugel was chapter vice president and technical project leader for the Thailand team. As chapter vice president for the Real Food Collaborative, Pugel helped bring local organic food to campus. She worked as a primary research assistant on projects sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.

She graduated with her bachelor’s degree in March. Pugel is seeking a master’s degree in civil systems engineering and a certificate in engineering for developing countries at the University of Colorado, Boulder

Melisa Esquivias, an industrial engineering major from San Bruno, Calif., was named Outstanding Senior for Contributions to the college. She was on President’s List from 2013 to 2014 and earned Dean’s List honors for eight quarters. Esquivias served as an officer for the Radio Frequency Identification Club working to increase club membership and awareness. As vice president of operations, she managed multiple club projects. In organizing an RFID/Internet of Things Conference, Esquivias provided learning opportunities for students and the local community. She also serves as an Engineering Ambassador, and for two years, volunteered as leader of the Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering Open House Marketing Team. As a member of the Latina Interest Sorority, Esquivias conducted research and fundraising projects to provide services to the Latinx community. As student coordinator for the Peer Resources in Student Mentoring, she designed and led mentoring programs to facilitate transition of queer students into the Cal Poly campus.

The Outstanding Student for Contributions to the University is Charly Flores, an electrical engineering senior from San Pedro, Calif. Known for his leadership in the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Flores is passionate about opening paths to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics for underrepresented students. As the society’s vice president of community affairs, Flores planned more than 20 outreach activities, including installing solar panels for low-income families and volunteering at local schools. He currently serves as SHPE president. A parent whose son received a tour of the college from Flores said, “Charly speaking to my son about his experiences as a transfer student truly inspired my son.” Flores has interned as a product support engineer at Rantec Power Systems and at Pacific Gas and Electric. He received a Multicultural Engineering Program Chevron Scholarship because of his leadership and outstanding academic performance.

Materials engineering senior Erika Hansen from San Luis Obispo, Calif., was named the Outstanding Student for Service to the Community for her commitment to help others and make the world a better place. She worked with EPIC, Cal Poly’s engineering summer camp, and was involved with outreach activities for the Materials Engineering Department. As outreach officer for the Alpha Sigma Mu Materials Honor Society, Hansen has organized outreach efforts, such as the MATE lab for the campus chapter of the Society of Women Engineers Building an Engineer Day, and visits to an after-school program at Fairgrove Elementary in Grover Beach, Calif. Hansen served in several leadership positions with Engineers Without Borders – Cal Poly, including project lead for a water distribution system for the Nicaragua team. Hansen also volunteers locally, and has served as a WOW orientation leader. An internship with the TenCate Advanced Composites company helped her expand her knowledge and skills with the manufacturing and testing of composites.

The 2017 Outstanding Student Volunteer of the Year is Dina Alarian, an electrical engineering senior from Folsom, Calif. As president of the Engineering Ambassadors, Alarian has made numerous improvements that benefit the college and this hardworking group of volunteers, who serve at college events. In addition to organizing and leading Ambassador and group officer meetings, she revamped the bylaws, and reworked and edited tour routes and training materials to better reflect the college on tours. She has revamped how to track Ambassadors' duties and reworked its budget to include more social events, and she began a fundraising campaign with industry contacts to provide new opportunities for group. Alarian serves on the search committee for a new College of Engineering dean.

The top undergraduate and graduate students for academic excellence by department included the following:

Outstanding Bachelor's Degree Graduates

Charles Aaron Ward          Aerospace Engineering
Derek Denardo                Aerospace Engineering
Samantha L Smith           Biomedical Engineering
Corina Mary Espelien         Biomedical Engineering
Steven Ellis Ambers          Civil Engineering
Chase Redd Hemming       Civil Engineering
Justina Tran                    Civil Engineering
Matthew T Lindly              Computer Engineering
Matthew A Coats              Computer Engineering
Cody Daniel Rhoads          Computer Science
Andrew Trong Khuong Tran Computer Science
William Cary Tran             Electrical Engineering
Dylan James Kirkby           Electrical Engineering
Kimberly Ellen Pugel          Environmental Engineering
Lauren Ingrid Miller           Environmental Engineering
Kendyl Jaclyn Cohn           General Engineering
Anna Colleen Laird            General Engineering
Jesse Elliot Yap                Industrial Engineering
Fiona Catherine Blackburn   Industrial Engineering
Jared Marshall Olson          Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies
Eric Colin Hill                   Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies
John Francis Brown            Manufacturing Engineering
Joseph A Hanacek             Manufacturing Engineering
Kenneth Blain Ainslie          Materials Engineering
Cory Jacob Hughes             Materials Engineering
Alexander Rodney Nichols     Mechanical Engineering
Christopher Michael Gonzales Mechanical Engineering
Myra Cherise Lukens            Software Engineering
Brittany Ashley Berlanga       Software Engineering

Outstanding Master's Degree Graduates

Reed Danis                      Aerospace Engineering
Matthew Richardson           Aerospace Engineering
Steven Maclean                Aerospace Engineering
Daniel Fugett                   Aerospace Engineering
Tiffany Shen                    Biomedical Engineering
John Gerrity                     Biomedical Engineering
Jennavive Lillie                 Biomedical Engineering
Kristina Bishard                 Biomedical Engineering
Nupur Garg                      Computer Science
Katherine Davis                Computer Science
Ivan Pachev                     Computer Science
Christopher Hunt               Computer Science
Sean Bayley                     Computer Science
Christian Skylar Durst         Computer Science
Brandon Livitski                Computer Science
David Ritter                     Electrical Engineering
Travis Taylor                    Electrical Engineering
Zhaoci Hu                        Engineering Management
Spencer Martinez               Engineering Management
Alisha Bender                   Engineering w/Integrated Technology Management
Austin Lynch                    Engineering w/Integrated Technology Management
Jonathon Chiu                  Engineering w/Integrated Technology Management
Joakim Larsen                  Fire Protection Engineering
Colin White                      Fire Protection Engineering
David Otsu                       Industrial Engineering
Nandan Thor                     Industrial Engineering
Joshua Ledgerwood            Industrial Engineering
Victor Espinosa III              Mechanical Engineering
Ryan Baskett                    Mechanical Engineering
Nick Bonafede                   Mechanical Engineering
Samuel Artho-Bentz            Mechanical Engineering
Michael Schier                   Mechanical Engineering
Connor Sullivan                  Mechanical Engineering
Kevin Carney                     Mechanical Engineering
Ruben Diaz                        Mechanical Engineering

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Photo at top, from left to right: Dina Alarian, Charly Flores, Melisa Esquivias and Erika Hansen. Kimberly Pugel not pictured.

Cal Poly Engineering Shows Its Smarts at Smart Cities Challenge
May 10, 2017

Cal Poly made a strong showing at the Mega Challenge on Smart Cities, held May 9-11 in Phoenix. The school placed second overall, led by industrial engineering graduate student Austin Lynch, who also won the Best Poster Award.

The event, which focuses on the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) to implement smart city solutions, was hosted by the RAIN RFID Alliance and RFID Journal LIVE! and the new IEEE Council on RFID.

Other members of Cal Poly’s multidisciplinary team included Isaac Williams, a manufacturing engineering alumnus; Jonnathan Terry, an electrical engineering graduate student; and Jessica Chao, Steven Johnson and Zachary Ho, all computer engineering seniors.

Industrial and manufacturing engineering Professor Tali Freed, who received an award for her role as vice chair of the conference, was accompanied by a delegation of 15 Cal Poly students who served as session chairs and provided meeting and setup assistance.

“Our students already know a lot about RFID, and many of them are officers of the RFID Club. They often receive internships and job offers as a result of their outstanding work at this annual conference,” said Freed.