Words by Christina Arthur
Every year, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly Pomona join forces to build a float from scratch for the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association’s annual Rose Parade. Both Cal Poly campuses have been participating in the parade since 1949 and have won 59 total awards. They’re also the only float team in the parade that consists entirely of students as they compete against professional float builders.
Business administration junior Madison Toney has been involved with the Rose Float ever since she was a freshman. Throughout her three years on the Rose Float Team, Toney moved from just a participant in her first year, to being on the leadership team for the decorations department in her second year, to now swerving as the decorations chair for the San Luis Obispo campus.
“I first found them at the club showcase as a freshman,” Toney says. “I was trying to find something very creative, hands-on, and artsy. I love that side of things because it’s how I get away from school and academics.”
Toney said that once she started going to the Rose Float labs, she immediately loved the community and the close-knit relationships. “I decided it was a great fit and a way to build a good friend group, so I’ve been there ever since.”
Because the San Luis Obispo campus has counterparts on the Pomona campus, Toney frequently communicates with Pomona’s decorations chair. Their collaborative duty is to make sure they’re getting everything prepared for “deco-week,” which is the seven days before the actual parade, when they travel to Pasadena to affix the flowers and dry decorations onto the float. “There’s a lot of thought that goes into it,” she says. “For instance, we’re doing a turtle this year, so we want to use very specific materials that convey that.”
“I’m more of a quiet person in general, but this has helped me come out of my own box, really talk to people, and experience new ways of tackling different obstacles. The biggest part I learned is communication. Without it, none of this can happen.”
In her role, Toney has put a lot of time and effort into the float. Every week she has six meetings, all of them varying, working with different float departments, her counterpart in Pomona, and the decorations team here in San Luis Obispo. Every weekend, the team has their lab days in Pomona, which normally last from about 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sometimes, they’ll even have double-lab weekends, which are twice as long. “We try to get the most out of it, especially since we have to travel,” she says.
According to Toney, being the only student-made float in the parade and competing against professional float builders has been a positive challenge. “In some ways we do have limited resources and experiences,” she says, “but overall, everyone on the float team has this drive and ambition to kind of go outside of the box and we use that weakness as our strength.”
Toney says that the Rose Float team has been able to conceive of and build floats other teams normally wouldn’t consider, which makes it a fun and creative process. She also says much of their creativity has to do with a willingness to fail. “A lot of times you’ll think a certain material might look good in one area, so you test it out, and then realize that it actually looks completely ugly,” she says. “Then you learn not to do that. Through this, you’re able to own up to that and take a step back to figure out another way to do it.”
“In some ways we do have limited resources and experiences,” she says, “but overall, everyone on the float team has this drive and ambition to kind of go outside of the box and we use that weakness as our strength.”
(Top) Madison Toney, Rose Float decorations chair. (Above) Loading the skeleton of the float to transport it to the Cal Poly Pomona campus. Photo by Joe Johnston.
Leadership is another major skill Toney has gained throughout her experiences with the Rose Float, especially with being the decorations chair. She says she’s grown within her leadership skills significantly this year, an area where she felt she was weaker in the past. “I’m more of a quiet person in general, but this has helped me come out of my own box, really talk to people, and experience new ways of tackling different obstacles.”
Collaborating with a team is another of the main learning outcomes Toney has taken from the experience. “Working with a completely different campus is beyond what I’ve ever done,” she says, “and I’ve been able to work through those challenges of communication and dealing with people of different personalities.”
According to Toney, each of the different departments within the Rose Float Team, from construction, to design, to decoration, rely heavily on each other to get their jobs finished. “The biggest part that I really learned is the communication, because without it, none of this can happen.” she says. “That’s one of the values I really hold onto with pretty much everything in my life. I think it’s very important, whether its a personal relationship, working in a business, or in class.”
With their focus on highlighting the joy and interactivity of unboxing a product, three interdisciplinary Cal Poly teams received first place, honorable mention, and shout-out awards at the Paperboard Packaging Alliance (PPA) 2019 Student Design Challenge.
The PPA event is considered perhaps the most rigorous packaging design competition in the nation. The challenge is open to universities throughout North America and seeks to foster awareness and appreciation of paperboard packaging with university educators and the next generation of packaging design decision-makers. This year more than 50 student teams from 13 universities—including Fashion Institute of Technology, Indiana State, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rutgers, Ryerson University, San Jose State, University of Florida, University of Wisconsin Stout, and Virginia Tech—submitted entries.
Cal Poly students developed their entries as Learn-by-Doing projects during one of the recurring collaborations between packaging and design courses taught earlier this year. Students were challenged to design packaging for a gaming platform that enhances the unboxing experience and can be used while playing the system. Winners were chosen by a panel of paperboard packaging industry professionals, which rated submissions based on their response to the competition scenario, innovative structural and graphic design, functionality, and the quality of the finished product.
The university’s top entry earned first place with “Party Box,” an innovative portable packaging system for a gaming console that becomes a projector and gameboard. The design was created by a student team consisting of Sam Baber (art and design, graphic design), Morgan McKean (graphic communication, packaging minor), Vance Perkins (industrial technology and packaging), and Samantha Phan (business administration, consumer packaging concentration, and packaging minor). The team presented its project to executives from top North American paperboard packaging manufacturers at the Paperboard Packaging Council’s annual fall meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on October 24.
A second Cal Poly team designed the entry “Pokémon Battle Arena” and earned one of the two honorable mention awards. The project was the work of Amber Huang (graphic communication, packaging minor), Briana Jackson (art and design, graphic design), Marilyn Nguyen (industrial technology and packaging), and Evan Williams (industrial technology and packaging).
“The PPA Student Design Challenge provides students an invaluable, real-world product-development experience that results in a tangible package to add to their professional portfolio.” — American Forest & Paper Association President and CEO Heidi Brock.
Another Cal Poly team also received one of the judge’s four “shout-out” honors. “Oblivion Impact” was created by Hailey Firstman (art and design, graphic design), Lani Masamoto (art and design, graphic design), Sophia Tamrazian (industrial technology and packaging), and Harrison Whitaker (industrial technology and packaging).
The top three student teams received cash prizes, while their respective schools also received a cash award to support academic programs, with first-place earning $5,500 for the team and $5,000 for the university.
All award-winning Cal Poly teams were advised by professors Javier de la Fuente (associate professor of industrial technology and packaging), Irene Carbonell (lecturer of industrial technology and packaging), and Mary LaPorte (professor emeritus of art and design). The projects were the result of an ongoing collaboration between industrial technology and packaging (ITP 408) and art and design (ART 437) students. In previous ITP-ART collaborations, Cal Poly teams finished in second place at the PPA Student Design Challenge, both in 2018 and 2017, and in first place in 2015.
The program has been using the income from their past and present victories to outsource printing services for their projects. They’ve also been banking the leftovers to save for a $45,000 Roland plotter, capable of printing directly on paperboard. They’re hoping to find a donor in the near future to match those efforts, putting a tool that would allow teams to be even more creative within reach. “These victories are the results of a lot of hard work for all the parties involved,” say professor de la Fuente. “No special magic is enabling them. Just dedication.”
“The PPA Student Design Challenge provides students an invaluable, real-world product-development experience that results in a tangible package to add to their professional portfolio,” said American Forest & Paper Association President and CEO Heidi Brock. “It is energizing to see young designers contributing to paperboard packaging innovations through teamwork, determination, and creativity.”
(Top) From left to right: Sam Baber, Ben Markens (Paperboard Packaging Council President), Sammy Phan, Morgan McKean, Vance Perkins, Mary LaPorte, and John O’Neal (WestRock Executive Vice President). Photo courtesy of Mary LaPorte. (Middle) Professors and students hard at work on “Pokémon Battle Arena.” Photo by Joe Johnston. (Bottom) “Party Box.” Photo courtesy of Javier de la Fuente.
Words by Christina Arthur
After 20 hours of hectic work—including white-boarding, sketching, and interviewing app users—a team of Cal Poly students emerged victorious at a recent competition co-hosted by Adobe XD and IBM iX.
The event was part of the nationwide Adobe Creative Jams competition, a series that puts teams and their creative skills to the test using Adobe Creative Cloud. This jam in particular focused on finding solutions to help prevent climate change. Out of a field of 52 other squads, which faced off on Sep. 27 through 29, one of the two Cal Poly teams competing in the event won first place.
The challenge was to build an app prototype that aims to give users an experience that enables accessible climate change action by presenting environmentally responsible tasks. This all had to be completed in 48 hours. The winning team included art and design (graphic design concentration) students Amber Chiang, Sasha Menshikova, Cody Capella and Sam Rogers, plus business (concentration in information systems) student Tyler Rathod.
“We failed a lot within 48 hours and ended up with some bad things,” Rathod said, “and we had to throw them away and make better things based off of what we learned from our mistakes.”
According to Rathod, the event was a crunch. “The time constraint was definitely one of the biggest things, because prototyping an app takes a decent amount of time and we only had 48 hours,” he said.
He also added that one of the most valuable things he took from the experience was the power of working across disciplines, as he learned that design is a collaborative and iterative process. “I had never done a design project with other people before. This was my first time doing that and it was really nice to be able to bounce ideas off them, because doing a project on my own is a little bit harder.”
With a group consisting of talented graphic designers and illustrators, a student who was good at UX research and writing, and a student who Rathod worked alongside to do a lot of the visual design and user-flows, the team gained the experience of rapidly generating ideas, working through them, and trying to execute them.“We failed a lot within 48 hours and ended up with some bad things,” Rathod said, “and we had to throw them away and make better things based off of what we learned from our mistakes.”
“A lot of modern design teams at these big tech companies will have white-boarding sessions, then they will do wire-framing, user-flows, and then they will develop prototypes. The process we followed was in line with that, so I definitely gained an applicable skill going forward.”
Rathod compared the experience to the way in which professional design teams operate.“A lot of modern design teams at these big tech companies will have white-boarding sessions, then they will do wire-framing, user-flows, and then they will develop prototypes. The process we followed was in line with that, so I definitely gained an applicable skill going forward.”
Many of the teams participating in the field hailed from top universities, such as Yale, Georgetown, and other schools with reputable design programs, so finishing in first place was a significant victory for the Cal Poly group. “Our program is relatively small,” Rathod said, “but we were really excited to win. It’s also just an awesome piece to put in our portfolios.”
Move over Silicon Valley and Silicon Beach. El Segundo, California is quickly becoming the tech and creative hub of Southern California. Over the last five years, what was once a nucleus for Aerospace business – with residents like Northrop TRW, Aerospace Corp and Hughes Aerospace housed in densely packed buildings and dusty industrial warehouses – has morphed into a bastion of converted structures boasting high bow trussed ceilings, generous glass lines and large polished concrete floorplates. Such a rebirth has attracted notable tech companies like UBER, Just Fab and Amazon who are looking to hire beach communities’ millennials and older talent while investing in some of L.A.’s most stylish, modern office space.
Developers who previously shied away from investing in this market have now descended upon the sleepy town affectionately called “Mayberry” in search of properties to convert.
Enter Cal Poly alumni Chris Strickfaden (Business Finance ‘86), commercial investor and real estate broker for Newmark Knight Frank; Russell Shubin (Architecture ‘85), architect and founder of renowned architecture firm Shubin Donaldson; and Erik Good (Natural Resources Management) from development firm Everwest. The three alums recently collaborated to successfully repurpose and reintroduce an old Boeing property in one of the state’s hottest real estate markets.
The project began in June 2017, when Strickfaden approached Erik Good about a property that had been occupied by Boeing since 1968. At 46,000 square feet, the building did not initially look like an opportune investment. Boeing had used it extensively over the years and, while they kept up with general maintenance, it had become well-worn and antiquated. The property owners decided to sell, and so Strickfaden and the Newmark team set out to show potential buyers that this property could be not only renovated, but repurposed as well. After several months of negotiating, Everwest outlasted 20 other buyers. Erik Good said, “When Chris and Newmark brought us this opportunity we immediately fell in love with the bones of the old industrial building and felt we could really make a special redevelopment here.”
Once under contract, Everwest started interviewing several architects. Shubin Donaldson came in as one of the foremost experts on both tenant improvement design and asset conversion. “Before it became the industry standard, we built a reputation as a ‘go-to architect’ in the technology marketplace. We got our start representing tenant users looking to reinvent their workspace,” Shubin said. “This project is an extension of that philosophy. Working with Chris, who I met through mutual friend Kal Benuska (Architectural Engineering ’85 now a Partner at John Martin and Associates) at Cal Poly, has been a great experience and we are proud of this redesign.”
Strickfaden, an investor in the project as well as the commercial broker on leasing and sales, has thoroughly enjoyed working with fellow alumni. “This has been as rewarding a process as any in my 30 years in real estate. Russell and his partner took an old, antiquated industrial property and created a truly remarkable, state of the art building that is flexible for multiple tenants – or a single user – and has been lauded within the market. Everwest saw the potential and stuck with a very challenging redevelopment. When leasing is complete, we look forward to bringing this project full circle by taking it to market for its investors.”
The project exemplifies the versatility of Cal Poly alumni as well as their ability to tackle cross-disciplinary projects. Further, it showcases the alumni network’s strength and interconnectedness. Good, Shubin and Strickfaden’s collaboration embodies the central Cal Poly tenets of effective communication, practical knowledge and positive community change.
The three alums recently celebrated the project’s completion together at an open house held April 18th. Pictured below, see before and after photos of the property.
Orfalea student athletes took care of business on the field and in the classroom this fall. Eleven total students were awarded Big West Conference or Big Sky Conference (for football players) all-academic honors. To be eligible, student-athletes must maintain at least a 3.00 cumulative grade-point average throughout the term and compete in at least 50 percent of their team’s events.
Sydney Knauer, Women’s Soccer (Business Administration)
Andrew Robertson, Men’s Soccer (Business Administration)
Peyton Bilo, Women’s Cross Country (Business Administration)
Hannah Hull, Women’s Cross Country (Business Administration)
Katherine Izzo, Women’s Cross Country (Business Administration)
Mikey Guguire, Men’s Cross Country (Business Administration)
Benjamin Holland, Men’s Cross Country (Economics)
Sam Ogee, Football (Business Administration)
Jake Jeffrey, Football (Business Administration)
Jake Smeltzer, Football (Industrial Technology and Packaging)
Carter Nichols, Football (Business Administration)
Additionally, Business Administration major Sean Goode has been named to the All-Big West Conference first team in men’s soccer. Goode, who is concentrating in Accounting, transferred to Cal Poly from Irvine Valley College and made an immediate impact.
In his two seasons at Cal Poly, he’s scored 11 goals and became just the 12th player in program history with multiple multi-goal matches in one season. This season, Goode was the fourth highest goal-scorer in the conference with seven, fifth in points with 16 and eighth in shot attempts with 36.