The         Lab

Examining Technology, Race, Equity, and Ethics in Education

The TREE Lab

Projects // Young People’s Race Power and Tech Project (YPRPT)

What is YPRPT?

The Young People’s Race Power and Technology project (YPRPT) is an out of school learning initiative designed specifically for middle school and high school students in the Chicago-area. The program offers an innovative research-based curriculum that empowers youth to explore, engage, critique, and reimagine the role of technology in their neighborhoods, schools, and communities. YPRPT is part of an NSF-funded initiative that brings together high school and undergraduate students from Northwestern University, educators, community workers, and university researchers to better understand the impact, limitations, harms, and possibilities that new technologies offer, particularly for historically marginalized communities of color. The program integrates technology “under the hood” investigations with racial and social justice topics, documentary film-making, and a focus on building and sustaining community among all participants.

Who are we?

We are a team of educators, activists, researchers, and students from the TREE lab at Northwestern University. We work closely with community-organizations and schools across the Chicago area to create learning opportunities for youth to examine the interconnections between technology, racism, and power. Last year, we collaborated with the Lucy Parsons Labs and Family Matters in Rogers Park to launch the first YPRPT (Young People’s Race Power and Technology) cohort.

Over the course of 9 months, we empowered high school students to create and produce their own social justice documentaries culminating in a special screening at the Block Museum. Documentaries from the 2019-2020 cohort can be viewed here:

In January 2021 YPRPT will launch its second cohort, using lessons learned from the pilot year and re-tooling in the context of COVID and emerging opportunities to expand the reach of the program. We’re expanding the program to include a select number of community orgs and schools from across the Chicago area.

How will the program work during COVID-19?

Teams will be connected to an online community of youth, activists, artists, and Northwestern student mentors; get access to a research-based curriculum hosted on an online platform; participate in monthly virtual meet-ups, and create an original documentary film exploring critical technology and social justice issues in their neighborhood. Students and community organizations will be able to be part of the program using technology they already have. Access to computers/laptops is also preferred but not required. If there are questions or concerns about technology access, you can contact us.

What does the documentary film-making part of the program look like?

Students will work with their team to learn documentary filmmaking skills. They will be able to use their smartphones, tablets, and computers to record videos, take pictures, and edit. If a team has access to digital cameras, they are welcomed, but not required. The YPRPT will provide teams with audio recording equipment and access to Adobe Premiere CC software licenses. Examples of documentary topics include: telling a story about the role of technology in your lives/neighborhood, exploring the politics of Chicago and technology, social media, etc. At the end of the program, students will have the opportunity to have their films featured in a special screening at the Block Museum at Northwestern University where their films will be viewed by hundreds of viewers.

Time/Work Commitment

Teams should expect to commit 2-5 hrs/week from January 2021 - June 2021. Below are some expectations as being part of the program:

Who is this program open to & how can my community organization apply?

DEADLINE EXTENDED! Tuesday, December 8th, 2020

This program is open to youth-serving community organizations in Chicago & surrounding areas. We are currently accepting applications for community-organizations to participate in YPRPT, which launches virtually in Winter 2021. To participate, community-orgs are required to submit a “youth team.” Each team will consist of 1-2 adult mentors representing the community organization, and 2-5 high school aged youth.

Applications are due by Tuesday, December 8th 2020 using this application. We also require that you have a list of students in mind for a team since we will be asking you to distribute consent forms among the students.

Note: If teams are not part of a formal community organization, they may still submit an application but there should be an adult mentor who can serve as the Team Lead. For example, an adult mentor can be a teacher or other adult that is willing to serve as the Team Lead for the duration of the program.

What does the research part of YPRPT look like?

Community organizations, team leaders, and students do not need to participate in the research to choose to implement this program or be part of the program. However, those who choose to participate will be compensated for their participation and allowing us to record the program for research purposes. The recordings will help us understand how to best support student learning of complex technical and societal issues.

YPRPT Project Contact Information

  • The TREE Lab & YPRPT Project Team:
  • Professor Sepehr Vakil:
  • Professor Raphael Nash:

Team Members


Sepehr Vakil Raphael Nash Natalie Melo Gregory Voelkel Jessica Marshall Lucy Parsons Labs Endangered Peace Productions Family Matters


Jessica Rodriguez Rhea Ramaiya Thomas Young