Students creatively adapt their semester-end projects to the COVID-19 reality

 Overhead view of cloth masks displayed on a cutting mat.

Students from SF State’s Apparel Design and Merchandising program sewed cloth masks as part of a semester-long project and to help the community in the wake of COVID-19. (Photo by Maitreyee Dhodapkar)

From developing a motorcycle conversion kit in their parents’ garage to bringing theatrical plays online, students find ways to finish their projects despite the pandemic

We might be keeping our distance due to COVID-19, but that hasn’t kept San Francisco State University students from getting closer to their degrees. Gators have found creative approaches to traditional semester-end projects that have kept them on track for graduation even as they remain off campus.

Swapping the runway for the web

Every spring semester, students from San Francisco State’s Apparel Design and Merchandising program put on a show called Runway that celebrates inclusivity and diversity in fashion. Although student designers-in-training won’t see their clothes modeled on the catwalk this year, they created their own magazine featuring their collections. The students are also celebrating their work by showcasing it on the event website.

One collection features items that may be hard to find but are much needed: cloth masks. Although the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people wear cloth masks in public, some may have trouble getting their hands on them. The student designers saw this as an opportunity to use their skills to help the community by sewing cloth masks for organizations that need them.

“It is our social responsibility to produce quality masks and educate others on how they can create protective gear with accessible resources,” said SF State senior Emilio Perez.

Other collections focus on clothes for people with disabilities and apparel made out of fabric scraps donated by Hill City, a subsidiary of Gap Inc., as a way to illustrate the need for sustainable fashion.

A revved up hybrid

While COVID-19 has thrown a wrench in everyday life, it hasn’t kept Design student Anucha Poh Maga away from the toolbox. He’s working on a project that he sees having a big impact in the post-pandemic world: a conversion kit for easily transforming motorcycles into hybrid vehicles.

In hopes of reducing air pollution, Maga has been developing a prototype that would work with the world’s most mass-produced motorbike, the Honda Super Cub. Before the pandemic, he had the luxury of a dedicated project work space on campus. Shelter-in-place orders, however, forced him to quickly move operations to his apartment living room — and eventually to his parents’ garage.

Maga says he found the University supportive during the transition despite the barriers of the pandemic. Although he had to finish his project away from campus, he leaned on telecommunications technology to keep faculty apprised of his progress and gather their feedback. His project was also made possible by the George and Judy Marcus Funds for Excellence in the Liberal Arts, established with a $25 million gift from alums George and Judy Marcus. Maga used some of the funds to buy a 3D printer to print some parts, a big boost to his production schedule when he briefly fell behind.

Drama goes digital

For 25 years, SF State’s School of Theatre and Dance has produced the Fringe Festival, which features original short plays written, directed and performed by students. Although sheltering-in-place threatened to cancel the 2020 show, graduate student playwright Ali Littman and Theatre Arts Professor Roy Conboy created a plan to save the festival by debuting the productions online.

The festival’s plays were performed by actors using Zoom, and performances were livestreamed along with Q&As with the playwrights and directors. The result: SF State’s theatres remained dark, but student playwrights and performers reached a worldwide audience.

All 11 plays will be archived on the department’s YouTube channel. Find a full lineup of the Fringe Festival at