Cal Poly reveals Rose Parade float design — and it involves a ‘mechanized octopus’

Cal Poly’s design for its 2020 Rose Parade float entry will feature a wild seascape with giant underwater creatures, a sunken ship and “a submarine on a fantastic journey,” Cal Poly has revealed.

The float is a joint entry by the universities in San Luis Obispo and Pomona, a team that has won dozens awards over the years for flower-adorned builds that have led technological innovation in the Pasedena Tournament of Roses Association’s annual event.

For the 2019 event, students’ imaginations took them to space, with a float featuring a guitar-wielding astronaut. This time, the team is traveling into the depths of the unknown in the deep sea.

The 2020 Rose Parade theme is “The Power of Hope.”

Cal Poly students will create a complicated deep-sea world called “Aquatic Aspirations,” in which a submarine crew looking for lost treasure finds “a breath-taking underwater paradise thriving amongst the pieces of a sunken ship,” according to a news release.

Think giant turtles, fish and kelp.

In the news release, Cal Poly Pomona student Christopher Maciosek said his favorite part of the design is the giant octopus. During the Jan. 1, 2020 parade, the mechanical engineering major will assist the float driver as an observer.

“I just think that octopuses are awesome,” Maciosek said in the release. “I’ll be rolling down Colorado Boulevard with an overgrown, mechanized octopus 10 feet about my head and clinging on the bowsprit of a giant shipwreck.”

Animation and innovation have been major features of the Cal Poly tradition.

The team was the first in the parade to use hydraulics for animation in 1968, the first to use computer-controlled animation in 1978, the first to use fiber optics in 1982 and the first to create a color changing floral effect in 2017, according to the Cal Poly project’s website,

The 2020 Cal Poly design is no different.

The turtles’ flippers will move, the fish will swim, the kelp with sway, and the “submarine will rock back and forth, spinning its propeller and craning its periscope around,” the release said.

To top it off, bubbles will flow from the submarine and shipwreck.

“As Cal Poly students setting off on an exploration into our futures, we never know what treasures we might encounter,” said Cal Poly Pomona design chair Marilyn Lora, a senior majoring in electronic systems engineering technology, said in the release. “The spirit of discovery conveyed by our float embodies the idea that no matter what journey you embark on, hope can be a powerful guide to reaching your own treasure.”

Construction has already begun on the Cal Poly float. For more information or to volunteer or work on the float, visit

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Monica Vaughan reports on health, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo County, oil and wildlife at The Tribune. She previously covered crime and justice in the Sacramento Valley, is a graduate of the University of Oregon journalism school and is a sixth-generation Californian. Have an idea for a story? Email: