SINGAPORE — Unlike his peers who spend their free time playing video games or socialising, Felix Isaac Lim, 17, prefers to spend his downtime scouring volunteer opportunities online that involve coding.
The avid coder, who has been at it since 13, has worked on six projects so far including creating one programme to help teens stop binge-watching Netflix and another to connect lonely seniors with teenagers.
The Hillgrove Secondary student was among the 13,000 students who received their N-level results on Monday (Dec 19).
Felix said that he spends around 20 hours in a school week on coding projects, on top of his three to four weekly volunteering hours with the Bukit Gombak Eagles Interact Club, a non-profit community outreach organisation.
He said he is motivated to learn from other people when volunteering, and of his six projects to add value in people’s lives, three of which served the Singaporean community, directly.
Of his three community-centred projects, his most recent is Netflix Addictector, a web browser extension that detects and blocks Netflix when a user exceeds a pre-determined watch time limit. It has been installed 300 times with 64 weekly active users.
“I wanted to do something different from gaming every day, and I picked up coding through online videos,” he said, describing his first experiences with coding when he was in Secondary 1, during the June holidays.
His first project, and most widely adopted, was a Discord bot that moderates content for communities on the Discord online social platform. It had 500,000 users at its peak, although he no longer maintains it due to time limitations.
He says that because his volunteering is self-initiated, his schedule is very flexible and he doesn’t face much burnout, despite spending 20 hours weekly on coding, and 40 hours weekly on school breaks.
“I try and do a lot of things at once, but I kind of like the pressure of doing a lot of things at once,” he said.
He is currently in the early stages of a community-centred project that he found on an online forum for Singaporean students, r/SGExams, to connect volunteer tutors to tutees who need help with their exams.
His two previous community projects were self-initiated as well. He came across the first one through his counsellor when he faced family issues, and the second one on Linkedin, when he was browsing through internet for volunteering opportunities.
Previously, he built a website dashboard for Fei Yue Community Services in 2019, which helped them to streamline the process of disadvantaged families collecting food for their monthly food fiesta.
He’s also worked on another project at Code For Singapore, a community-led organisation that uses technology to create projects to help people in 2020 and 2021.
There, he worked on a platform for isolated elderly to interact more, by having the public ask them questions and having these elders give them advice.
“When you volunteer, you kind of get a new perspective and also make new friends… the most selfish thing you can do is to help other people because the feeling is good, the joy is there,” he said when asked about his motivations.