Samantha Weigel/Daily Journal
Max Lieberman watches David Skrenta work on their search engine Harvix. Skrentra started the site to help students refine their searches to those relevant for school assignments.
Making time outside of class, homework, sports and school-related extracurricular activities can be hard for a 15-year-old, but three Carlmont High School students are spending their free time to gain real-world tech experience by creating an online search engine.
Harvix is the brainchild of David Skrenta, a 15-year-old freshman at Carlmont who began programming with his father when he was in sixth-grade. The idea came when he was working on a research project and felt traditional websites were inundated with information irrelevant to his school assignments, Skrenta said.
“Basically websites have been the same for the last 10 years. They provide just a list of links. I really want to get the information off the site and display it in an easily digestible format,” Skrenta said. “Our main goal is [for] it to work for all students of any grade or level really.”
He officially launched the site last year and shortly after began working with two of his classmates, sophomores Max Lieberman and Shant Narkizian.
Lieberman, 15, was intrigued by Skrenta’s idea and now works as vice president of marketing for Harvix.
“David sat right behind me in math class and I thought his mission to help students discover and share education information in meaningful ways was something I could support,” Lieberman said. “He had this idea that if students could find information all in one place in the most efficient way, it’d be gold.”
Deadlines are practically the norm for high school students so Harvix helps to fast-track studying, Lieberman said.
“Students have very stressful lives with various research projects and research essays and they can spend hours and hours just trying to find some of that information scrolling through websites. But what Harvix does, is go through those websites for the students and pulls all the information into one site and condenses it and gives you facts, pictures and other various linking,” Lieberman said.
There are no ads, no spam and Harvix uses a unique algorithm that filters out things that are irrelevant to a search, Narkizian, 16, said. Unlike other mass search engines, the trio have keen insight into what students want, Narkizian said.
“Google is trying to generalize searching for almost every single person. But we’re students and we’re trying to help specifically students,” Narkizian said.
Harvix’s main page appears like other search engines, but Lieberman said it’s anything but.
“I checked out the site, I searched something random,” Lieberman said. “It came up with not only facts, but pictures and links to other sources. But the facts were right there, you could find what you wanted pretty easily. These facts were coming from all different websites so it took the website from Google, condensed the facts, and put it all on one page which is helpful because one, it saves time and two, it gives you good facts without the hassle of going through 10 or 15 pages.”
They’ve been beta testing Harvix and trying to get more schools to use it, Skrenta said. Recently, they had the San Carlos Charter Learning Center give it a spin, Skrenta said.
Even though they’re in the heart of the tech startup industry, the fact that Skrenta has already been programming for years is anything but ordinary, Lieberman said.
“People go to college to learn how to code, they take school classes to learn how to code. You don’t see very often a middle schooler who can make his own research engine that is fully functional and works very efficiently, which is something that’s very unique about our project. It doesn’t just look professional, it’s made by teenagers who want to provide something that they themselves have needed in the past,” Lieberman said.
Undoubtedly, continually programming a website is too much for a full-time high school student so Skrenta said he’s developed an international network of about 20 kids who help. As a professional programmer, his dad is always available to help out as well; but Skrenta said he’s taking home some pretty valuable real-world business lessons all on his own.
“I think it’s pretty cool because you don’t really get this kind of experience going to school or sometimes there’s entrepreneur classes available to kids, but not a lot. I think it’s been really interesting working with a company,” Skrenta said. “I definitely feel better about my business career now that I have more experience, but I definitely think I want to be a computer programmer/entrepreneur applying computer skills to solving business problems.”
To check out Harvix, visit www.harvix.com.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 106