A Northwestern University joint initiative of Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications and the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering & Applied Science. Northwestern University joint initiative of Medill & McCormick School of Engineering.

Getting Involved with Knight Lab

In every respect, Northwestern’s Knight Lab would not be what it is without our vibrant student community. We wanted to take a moment to lay out where things are headed for the 2016-17 school year. You can find more timely updates during the school year on our Facebook page or by joining our students-only Google Group.


The biggest news is that this year there will be a for-credit class associated with the lab. Students enrolled in the class will work alongside Knight Lab faculty and staff on real projects that will live on beyond any quarter. The class can be taken for journalism or engineering credit, and students are permitted to enroll in the class more than once. You can learn a lot more about the class on its own page. Note that, for bureaucratic reasons, there are a number of open spaces still in the Fall class, if you want to register for engineering credit. Help us spread the word! The class will also be offered during Winter and Spring quarters.


Ashley Wu and Clare Varellas work on a project at Open Lab.

We also want to continue to foster a fun extra-curricular environment where students can learn their way around the world of media and technology. We will have a number of programs designed to offer students an opportunity to get started or to develop skills they already have. And, we will hire a number of students to help us make it all happen.

The core of our community will continue to be two weekly events: Open Lab and Lab Lunches.

Open Lab is held weekly on Tuesdays from 6-10 pm in Knight Lab (Fisk 111). It’s a casual, drop-in environment where you can come work on tutorials or projects among other students of various levels of experience. Other people at Open Lab may be able to help you out of a jam, or maybe you’ll be able to give someone else a hand by explaining something you’ve already learned. There will be occasional presentations, but open lab is meant to be self-organizing, so make it what you want! (Oh, and we’ll have some food too…)

Lab Lunches are also held weekly, on Thursdays from 11:30 am – 1 pm. Most weeks we’ll invite a guest–sometimes from journalism or technology, but sometimes just someone we think is interesting. Sometimes our guest has a presentation, but it’s usually more conversational. Lunch is free, but we ask people to let us know they are coming—go to ti.to/knightlab for the schedule and to RSVP. If you have to leave early, or come late, that’s no problem.

Also, new this year: our awesome device lab. We’ve assembled a bunch of cool technology which is going to be at the center of the future of media, and we want students to get comfortable with it. We have phones, tablets and watches so that you can get experience with how different devices and operating systems work (and we have some cool software so that if you’re building websites, you can make sure your sites look great on all the different screens.) We also have other household technology, like video game consoles, internet video systems, and an Amazon Echo, and we want students to make media for them as well. Finally, we have a number of virtual reality/augmented reality kits (HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and a Microsoft Hololens) to try out. We’re still working out the details of when and how students will have access to the equipment in the device lab.

The best way to know what’s going on in the community is to join the Knight Lab Students Google group. We use this to let people know who’s coming to lunch, what’s happening at open lab, and, when appropriate, that a regularly scheduled event isn’t happening.


One of the keys to making our community meaningful for students is hiring excellent students to help us make it all happen. We’re not currently hiring, but here’s more about how we’re organized. If you’re interested, you should start getting involved in the other opportunities on this page, and keep your ears open for an announcement when we’re hiring again.

This year we are organizing the students we hire into teams, so that everyone has a clearer idea of how our student employees can best contribute to Knight Lab awesomeness.

Community Team

Help us run the events and bring the knowledge which are at the heart of the lab. The Community team will be responsible for sustaining the Open Lab program and all other extracurricular efforts. This means making open lab a welcoming space and actively looking for ways to help students learn more — whether that’s scheduling lightning talks or other presentations, or building guides to online learning, or helping develop our own lessons and training. The community team will also document and publicize our events, so students with video, photography, web production and social media skills are encouraged to apply.

Software Team

Knight Lab has created a number of popular, and even award winning tools. We are always trying to make the tools work better and easier to use. Everyone on the team will help with answering questions from our users and improving our documentation and presentation, and as team members develop the necessary coding skills, they’ll help fix bugs and improve the actual functioning of the tools.

Device Lab Team

As mentioned above, we have a great new Device Lab, with a lot of interesting gadgets and doodads. We are building a team of students who want to learn to use device lab gear, and help us help other students learn about it. Responsibilities will include shifts in the lab for scheduled or drop-in consulting with the equipment as well as helping manage the equipment and developing how-to guides for using things.