Oliver Ni contributes to his community through coding

Ni+uses+his+passion+for+coding+to+connect+with+new+people+and+positively+impact+the+community.+%28Graphic+Illustration+by+Katie+Chin+and+Emma+Constable%29

Ni uses his passion for coding to connect with new people and positively impact the community. (Graphic Illustration by Katie Chin and Emma Constable)

Katie Chin

While the Lynbrook app is an essential element of the school’s community, many may not know its origins. The creation of the app was spearheaded by senior Oliver Ni, who pursues all things computer science, from developing and running a Discord bot with over 2 million users to creating an online platform to host high school math tournaments.

Ni first learned to code through Khan Academy in fourth grade. In sixth grade, he discovered his interest in web development when his mom complained that the school’s announcements were too difficult to keep track of. Ni wrote a program that takes announcements from the school’s website and consolidates them for easier access.

“It was that moment when I realized the sort of impact I can make on other people with programming,” Ni said.

Since then, he has channeled his passion in computer science into helping the people in his community. In tenth grade, along with Lynbrook alum Michael Zhao and senior Joe Lin, Ni came up with the idea for a Lynbrook app. Development started in 2019, and the app was released during the 2020-21 school year.

Ni also inspired the AP Computer Science department to switch from the development environment Eclipse to Visual Studio Code. Ni had heard friends criticizing Eclipse for its limited capacity and decided to begin working with VS Code. Through VS Code, he built an extension that allowed students to download and turn in their homework. Originally, only a couple of Ni’s friends used the extension, but prior to the start of school this year, the CS department decided to implement his extension into the class curriculum.

As a TA in the CS classroom, Ni is often called upon to help improve the extension and create new content for the class. He always returns quickly with a solution in hand.

“It’s exciting when you’ve got students that can not only do stuff at the level that he can but also is really eager to do it and it makes it really fun,” Computer Science teacher Mr. Fulk said. “A common theme of teaching at this school is that what you can do is really what you can imagine.”

Ni gathers inspiration for new projects from the problems he encounters in various aspects of his life. When trying to host a math competition with his friends, Ni could not find a centralized platform on which they could hold registration. It was then when he created the competition platform that is now used for prestigious high school math tournaments such as the Stanford Math Tournament and the Berkeley Math Tournament.

From playing Genshin Impact to going out for boba, Ni loves to spend time with his friends. Like many teenagers, Ni enjoys gaming in his free time. During the pandemic, he and his friends often played Pokecord on Discord and were devastated when it was shut down. Ni soon realized that he could build a similar game, which he later named Pokétwo. This Discord bot allows users to catch and trade Pokémon as they chat on Discord. While it was initially built just for his friends, Ni realized his game had a much larger fan base that he had not yet tapped into.

“Now, we’re on almost 600,000 Discord servers,” Ni said. “And I think we have 2.3 million registered users, which is pretty impressive.”

Ni describes himself as very social and values making genuine connections with people. He has found coding to be a great way to make friends and to give back to others. 

“I’ve met with a lot of people, which I think is one really valuable aspect of CS, because it’s not really just something by yourself,” Ni said. “Making things and building things, maybe should be something that you do with others.”

When approaching a project, Ni primarily focuses on what he wants to do and does not let a lack of knowledge in the area hinder him. Working on a project he is passionate about pushes him to learn and enjoy his experience.

Ni’s pursuits in computer science are driven by his inexhaustible love and curiosity for coding, and he encourages students to follow their own dreams.

“CS is just something I really enjoy. I have a lot of fun doing it,” Ni said. “I think if you’re not having a lot of fun doing something, then you might want to reconsider doing it.”