But now, it continues to be a work in progress.
On Thursday night, the float was scheduled to make its slow and careful way to Pasadena.
The final decoration stage, when hundreds of volunteers will festoon it with flowers - including white irises, ivy, silverleaf and chrysanthemums - takes place in the five days after Christmas.
"As much as you hate the float by the end, there's no feeling like it," said Redlands High School graduate Katie Ruhm, a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo senior majoring in mechanical engineering.
The chance to give up winter vacation and family in favor of welding, spraying fiberglass and affixing thousands of flowers to the float is one of the most popular clubs at Cal Poly campuses in Pomona as well as San Luis Obispo, said Greg Lehr, the adviser to the universities' Rose Parade program.
"I had other clubs I was involved in, but I'm a hands-on builder," said Olivia Moore, a junior majoring in business at Cal Poly Pomona.
"I learned how to weld last year and I weld all the time now."
Prior to the move to Pasadena, about 70 float committee members have been split between the Pomona and San Luis Obispo campuses, 220 miles apart.
Students from each campus build half of the float - San Luis Obispo traditionally assembling the back section, Pomona assembling the front.
The students started working after finals week in December.
And then it's a frantic sprint through the month, fitting everything together, making sure the moving parts all do so, moving the nearly complete float to Pasadena and then decorating it, with the help of hundreds of volunteers each day.
Unlike other campus organizations, where getting to do the "good stuff" is reserved for older students or requires jumping through other hoops, everyone on the float committee gets to - and is expected to - work on the float.
"It's not like you can't touch a tool unless you're third year," Ruhm said.
During the Rose Parade, television cameras only show the right side of floats, or the "camera side," and many floats are much simpler on the left side, which is mostly seen by parade attendees.
"But Cal Poly likes to get creative with lots of animation," Lehr said.
Both sides of this year's float, dubbed "Tuxedo Air," will have animation and be studded with penguins longing to fly.
"We start thinking about the next year's float the day the parade ends," Moore said.
There's a concept contest in January on each campus that draws in about 100 entries each year.
Rose Bowl officials go through the top suggestions from each float committee - making sure that next year's dream-based theme won't feature nothing but Sleeping Beauty floats, for instance - and give their top three choices in February.
A final rendering of the float is done by mid-May.