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Meet the 2023 Cal Poly Rose Float Hydraulics and Engine Lead, History Student Collin Marfia


Collin Marfia posing in front of the float

By Jay Thompson

History student Collin Marfia will be one of four students who will ride unseen aboard the Cal Poly Universities’ award-winning float, “Road to Reclamation,” as the float engineer at the 2023 Rose Parade in Pasadena, CA on Jan. 1.

Read more about his time working on, "Road to Reclamation," below.


headshot of Collin Marfia
Colin Marfia was one of the four
operators who rode unseen aboard Cal
Poly universities’“Road to Reclamation.”

What is your current role in the 2023 Rose Float?   

I am the Hydraulics and Engine Lead as well as the Drive Engine Operator. 

How long have you been involved with Rose Float?   

My involvement with Rose Float began last year when I saw their booth set up during Club Showcase 

Do you feel the weight of the legacy of Rose Float? There have been more than 70 floats since 1949, and this student project is perhaps the highest profile of any on campus in any given year. 

It feels very heavy. So many people before me have worked on this incredible amalgamation of art and engineering and to be working in this capacity is such an honor and a privilege.  

Which floats did you work on, and what was your role in each?   

I was a construction team member focusing on hydraulics during the 2022 float “Stargrazers” and am now the Hydraulics Lead for the 2023 Float “Road to Reclamation.” 

What skills have you learned as a result of Rose Float — such as with mechanics, use of power tools, electrical, growing flowers, working within a team? 

I have learned so much about mechanics in this program, and the things that I get to do each weekend amaze me. I had no idea what hydraulics even were before joining. Now I’m in charge of every hydraulic system powering this program, and I am constantly left in awe. My teamwork capabilities have grown so much because of this program as well. We work with a leadership team of around about 45 people across two campuses along with all of our other team members, participants and volunteers. Keeping up communication between the two campuses is a necessity, and the ideas we’ve come up with to keep each other in the loop have greatly increased my communication skills. 

What attracted you to join the group? And what keeps you coming back?   

The booth they had set up and the people at the booth pulled me in and everyone else held me down. They presented it as essentially industrial arts and crafts with friends sprinkled in and I was hooked. They were so welcoming to me even though I was one of two Liberal Arts majors in the program at the time and if I didn’t know something they tried their best to teach it to me. Everyone is so welcoming and kind, and I have met some incredible people through this program. 

What is the best experience you’ve had working on the float?   

Definitely during judging last year. I was installing a replacement speaker cable because one of ours broke right before judging. As I was hooking it up I heard yelling from outside the float and every hatch and door in the float slammed shut — horror-movie style. Our Animations Operator and Drive Engine Operator from last year had dived into the float and pulled the door shut behind them without realizing I was there. I asked what’s happening and they both said: “The judges are here half an hour early. Stay put and stay quiet.” So last year, I got to be inside of the float during our judging time slot. 

What is special about the 2023 float entry?   

I think a lot of people are very passionate about this design. The concept was created by one of the people on our leadership team and it is so serene and calming. (Mechanical engineering student Benjamino Cruz, a four-year member of the Cal Poly team, submitted the original concept for “Road to Reclamation.” Cruz is the San Luis Obispo team’s construction chair who will be driving the float on this year’s 5-1/2-mile parade route.) There is something so nice about the forest and the cycle of life that happens there daily, and we're just so excited to bring this design to life. 

Will you be riding aboard the float during the parade? 

I will be in the float during the parade. As Drive Engine Operator it will be my job to maintain all drive and hydraulic systems on the float during the parade and ensure that we remain operable and in safe conditions for the entirety of the parade. 


What do you look forward to about Decorations (Deco) Week (Dec. 26-Jan. 1)?

Deco Week is so exhausting but to see all of your hard work come together in this final stretch of time and see it all finished is a thing of beauty. I remember pulling an all-nighter to get the float moved into place in time for the parade to start and fighting sleep while watching our art (float) driving into its starting place was amazing. 


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