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A small group of students from the Cal Poly Universities will ring in the new year as they have for the last 71 years: craning their heads from the sidelines of the 130th Rose Parade to watch a flower-adorned parade float make the 5.5-mile trip down Pasadena's Colorado Boulevard.

Designed and built by the Cal Poly SLO and Cal Poly Pomona Rose Float teams (the competition's only student-built entry), the new float, dubbed "Far Out Frequencies," tells the story of astronauts "Morgan" and "Sally" as they attempt to use music to share their message of goodwill with a half-dozen animated aliens.

Lara Steinwinter, vice president for the Cal Poly SLO Rose Float, said the new design celebrates this year’s parade theme, “The Melody of Life,” by demonstrating to 700,000 spectators and more than 70 million viewers across the globe that music is a language for all. Now in her third year working on the universities' float, Steinwinter, a fourth-year marketing major who transferred from Cal Poly Pomona in 2017, said the theme embodies the joint effort required to bring the float to life.

"I think it's really cool because both SLO and Pomona have to stay in constant communication while we work," she added. "Our schools may be different, but we come together to build this thing."

Planning for the float began in January, Steinwinter said, with the final design being selected from a pool of 150 entries. Fabrication and construction at Cal Poly SLO began in July, with many students balancing their duties to the float with classes, part- and full-time jobs and school projects.

"We really do a great job for what we have," she said. "We're not paid to do this — we're here for an education."

In October, the SLO Rose Float team made the 240-mile trip to Pomona to officially join the front and rear half of the float, a symbol of partnership and unification. Since then, SLO team members have made regular weekend trips to Pomona in order to help with the final construction and preparation.

"As students it's difficult to keep in constant communication, but I think it teaches us a lot," she said. "Without both campuses we wouldn't be able to do it."

Steinwinter couldn't estimate the average amount of time a team member puts into the float. And while the universities' annual entry has garnered dozens of awards for innovation and regularly competes with professionally constructed entries, for her, "it's more for the love."

"It's a definitely a bit of a self-challenge," Steinwinter added. "We're always thinking of things we can do this year that we didn't do last year, and being  self-built allows us a lot of freedom to do what we want."

The 48- by 18-foot entry stands 23-feet tall and, when complete, will feature more than 17,000 roses, daisies, irises and other materials — enough foliage to cover 2,572 square feet of float area. The decoration period opened Wednesday and continues through Sunday. About 90 percent of the blooms are from California, including some grown by students at both campuses.

The parade will be broadcast live at 8 a.m. on New Year's Day. Viewers are encouraged to check local broadcast listings for more information.

Note: This article misidentified Lara Steinwinter as the vice president of Cal Poly SLO's Rose Float team.

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Mathew Burciaga covers education in Santa Maria and the surrounding area for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @math_burciaga

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Education Reporter

Santa Maria Times reporter Mathew Burciaga covers education for Lee Central Coast Newspapers.