Students begin construction on inaugural float

Something is happening in the basement of the Academic Center.

A week before the spring semester began, GW staffers who park their cars in the garage’s fourth basement level could hear laughter and construction noises coming from a corner blocked off with large white tarps.

About 50 students gave up a week of their winter vacation to come back to D.C. and help build GW’s inaugural float – though they do not see it as much of a sacrifice.

“It is a great thing about going to GW. We are the only school with a float; it is a real honor for us,” said Alicia Froio, the project’s chief of staff. “I am extremely happy that my school is participating in this. My friends at other schools are very, very jealous.”

Since last Monday, the students have been working throughout the day, assembling and gathering parts to build the various sections of the float. Each school – from the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences to the Law School – will have its own section.

“This is very historical. This is the second float in the history of GW, and I’m very happy to be part of it because it will be part of GW’s history and the presidential history,” senior Melissa Alvarado said. “To have D.C. all booked up just for this event, to be one of four floats to be in the parade is amazing.”

Alvarado said she has spent her time working on the Law and Medical School sections of the float.

While the float might be coming together at a quick pace – project designer Charlie Burgoyne said they are about five days ahead of schedule – students still do not know who will be riding on it during the parade.

“It is entirely work-based but that does not mean just this week,” Burgoyne said. “There are some people who worked a lot before but were not able to be here this week and they will be considered.”

Burgoyne said he hopes to a have a finalized list this week.

Students hoping to get a sneak preview of the float before Inauguration Day can see the float progress via two live webcams. Construction is expected to move from the basement of the Academic Center to a tent in Kogan Plaza sometime this week.

Burgoyne said he has a “personal desire to let students come and see the float” but because of the expensive electronics involved – including flat screen television screens and an electronic ticker – the University has expressed reservations. Burgoyne hopes that there will be times set up when any student can come see it.

Froio and Burgoyne said the creativity of the student participants has been the most remarkable part of the process.

“I’ve seen how ingenious students at the University are,” Burgoyne said. “No matter what school these kids are in, they are coming up with ideas across the board.”

Some are quickly learning how to use construction tools, including one SMPA student who put down the pen and picked up a blowtorch. The journalism student was welding metal last week under the watchful eye of a volunteer engineering faculty member.

With little more than a week before the inauguration, those working on the project eagerly anticipate seeing the float glide down Pennsylvania Avenue.

“We are looking forward to seeing it in its final stage and I just cannot wait for the 20th,” Froio said.

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