Taking the Parade Route: This Year’s Rose Float President, Regina Chapuis, Discusses Her Journey to Pasadena

Regina Chapuis and the Rose Float team will travel to Pasadena to compete in the annual Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year's Day.
CPE student Regina Chapuis is president of this year's Cal Poly Rose Float.

This year’s Cal Poly Universities float, named Stargrazers, plays off the “Hey Diddle, Diddle” nursery rhyme.

During a club fair her freshman year, Regina Chapuis made eye contact with someone working the Rose Float booth and felt compelled to stop and talk. She eventually offered her email address, but she didn’t plan to pursue an invitation to attend the next club meeting.

And yet she did – and never missed one afterward.

“I really just love the community of people I encountered the first day I came out,” she said. “They were such a tight-knit group of people that were doing this massive building project, and I saw that and said, ‘I want to be a part of that!’”

Today, the computer engineering senior is the president of Cal Poly’s Rose Float team, which is preparing to take its Stargrazers float to Pasadena for the annual Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year’s Day.

The parade has notably been a popular TV event for those in the Midwest and East fantasizing about an escape from their frigid winters. Yet, Chapuis, who grew up in Sacramento, wasn’t that familiar with it.

“A lot of people come to the Rose Float program because they have grown up with the Rose Parade – that’s something they watched on New Year’s,” she said. “I did not really know what the Rose Float was when I came to college. I was looking for something that fused art and engineering.”

Born to parents with careers in TV news and public relations, her interest in computer engineering began in the fifth grade, when a friend introduced her to the learning the software Scratch, a visual programming language and website targeted at children 8-16.

“That’s when I fell in love with coding,” she said.

She also had an interest in art and animals. In high school and part of college, she worked as a teaching assistant and camp counselor at the Sacramento Zoo.

Regina Chapuis likes the Rose Float because she can see tangible results of engineering work.
CPE senior Regina Chapuis has been involved with the Cal poly Rose Float team since she was a freshman.

“At the Sacramento Zoo, my favorite animal is the red river hog,” she said. “I think they’re really pretty, and also the babies that were born a few years back are all named after Star Wars characters, which I think is cool.”

After high school, Chapuis gravitated toward computer programming because she wanted to work with the intersection of software and hardware.

“I find those projects with a tangible end product to be really fun,” she said.

Likewise, the Rose Float team allowed her to see the results of her work – in a big way.

The Cal Poly Universities float – a joint project with Cal Poly Pomona – is the only student-built float in the parade, which is seen by 70 million viewers worldwide.

Chapuis held multiple leadership roles before becoming president. In the president role, her duties include promoting communication between departments, heading team events and facilitating the trip to Pomona.

In October, Cal Poly’s team transports its half of the float to Pomona, where both teams work to complete the project.

This year’s parade theme is “Dream. Believe. Achieve.”

“It’s about the power of education, so clearly that is very important to us as the only student-built float,” she said.

Stargrazers brings to life a scene from the Mother Goose nursery rhyme “Hey Diddle, Diddle.” It will feature a 600-pound cow jumping  over a 15-foot moon with the aid of jet packs, other nursey rhyme characters and multiple animations.

“Something I’m really excited about is there is a mechanism – we call it ‘flowing deco mech,’” she said. “One of the test jet packs has these clear tubs with an air blower that sort of flows like a tornado in the tube that we’re going to put dried deco in, like dried flower petals, and have them flutter around.”

Beginning in October, she and the team began traveling to Pomona every weekend, leading to a final full-time hectic push in the three weeks before the parade. On December 31st the team will be finally let go of the float for judging, and then on January 1st they will watch from the sidelines for that internationally televised trip down Colorado Ave.

“It’s high stress, and you’re keyed up and on task all week,” she said. “And once it’s finally over, you lose that adrenaline rush. But it’s also very gratifying.”

The Cal Poly College of Engineering understands there has been an enormous amount of turmoil and transition due to Coronavirus (COVID-19). As we continue offering support to our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends, we also continue providing critical updates as well as college highlights. Ours is a college full of creative and bright engineers and staff. For more information on COVID-19 visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. For more information on how Cal Poly is responding to COVID-19, visit the Cal Poly Coronavirus website Coronavirus website.

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