The Student News Site of Burlingame High School

Isaac Ruben

September 6, 2022

Senior Isaac Ruben smiles for a photo behind the library. (Jake Rothstein)

Like many students, senior Isaac Ruben has a part-time job. But it’s not at a restaurant — it’s on his computer. Ruben works for himself as a freelance web designer. And unbeknownst to most of his clientele, he is younger than your average freelancer.

“I’ve been doing web freelance on and off for a few years, and that’s actually really lucrative. It’s great. There’s no real qualifications. You know, no one knows that I’m the 17-year-old kid doing their website,” Ruben said. “They’re paying by the hour, and they’re happy with their results. They leave me good reviews.”

As a freelancer, Ruben makes more money than the average high school student as a freelancer with the added benefit of getting to work on his own time.

“I’m in high school, so most freelancers are worried about health care, paying rent, and there’s no danger for me,” said Ruben. “The most recent freelance thing I did was probably $40 an hour, but it’s difficult to say. I spent probably 10 hours doing revisions because they changed their mind about a specification, and with that, maybe it’s $30 an hour, but it’s still it’s very good rates.”

Before Ruben started freelancing, he had another smaller-scale venture creating bots for Discord, a social networking platform.  

“When I was younger, people paid me to make Discord bots, like small YouTubers, so they’d have the ‘YouTuber discord bot,’ and it could answer questions and stuff,” Ruben said. 

As a kid, Ruben would code on and off using Scratch, a free and easy-to-use block-coding online software, But when the pandemic forced students into their houses and onto their computers, Ruben saw an opportunity to get back into coding. 

“During Covid I was super bored, super lonely. I had to [attend] school for like an hour, so I just started making games,” Ruben said. “I think it’s a great way to learn to code because there’s such set goals step-by-step. Get something on the screen, get it to move… I had 12 hours a day, every day for over a year to just code.”

Ruben also joined the Iron Panthers, Burlingame’s robotics team, during the pandemic. Programming the robot code gave him valuable experience in a more professional setting.

“Robotics was the first time I really collaborated with other people on coding, in an environment where not only [was] my code used and the results mattered, but people cared about the speed and the maintainability,” Ruben said. “My experience with coding was all hobby projects, games, little tools for myself, so robotics was really influential in terms of getting better.”

Currently, Ruben is working on a side project for the tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). Ruben, who has been playing D&D for around six years, decided to create a search engine for the D&D item database, a tool that did not yet exist.

“I like playing D&D. It happens to be an area where there is room for technical improvements,” Ruben said. “The data exists for everything in the game, but there isn’t a great search engine that would do fuzzy text search over all of that. So if you wanted to find an ability or a spell based on description, there’s not a good way to do that.”

Ruben is in his senior year and in the midst of applying to colleges, where he hopes to explore a future  computer science field.

“There’s kind of like two diverging paths,” Ruben said. “I can get a bachelor’s in [computer science] to understand more theory or go into industry… so I could go either way. But there also is like the academia track, I could go on to get a PhD and do research, and I might like that more. I’m going to find out.”

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Jake Rothstein, Managing Editor

Jake Rothstein is a senior at Burlingame High School and is a third-year student in journalism. Jake is excited to be the new co-managing editor for the...

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