I build projects with code

My passion in life is to create impactive, memorable experiences with code (Node/Express/Rails) and music. I am currently building and growing Hackterms, a crowdsourced dictionary of programming terms. In the past, I've built apps to help users find fitness inspiration , break out of the 2016 election echo chamber. I co-founded a 35-person composers' orchestra, ran a Humans of New York-inspired crowdfunding campaign, and freelanced as a film composer.

I think about people first and tools second. Before I ever start building, I draw on data and observation to develop empathy for my users.

I've previously worked in Product and Community at Codecademy and Indiegogo.

Programming projects

Below is a list of programming projects I've built while learning to code, including experiments that I'm currently working on. I use:

  • Back end: Node.js + Express, Rails 4
  • Databases: PostgreSQL, Mongo
  • Front end: HTML/CSS (with SASS), Bootstrap, JS + jQuery
  • Other: Heroku, Git, Sublime

You can read about my coding journey on the Max Learns Code blog.

Tech: Node, Express, MongoDB, jQuery, Handlebars.js, SASS.

Description: Hackterms is a crowdsourced dictionary of coding terms, currently at almost 400 definitions from hundreds of contributors. Use it to quickly understand:

  • why, where, and when someone would use a tool/process/language
  • what the pros, cons, and alternatives are
  • where this term fits in within the coding ecosystem
Minimal at the surface, Hackterms is built with user accounts and moderator/admin roles, secure password management and reset, oAuth login, responsive styling, a submission approval queue, term category graphics, and much more.


Tech: Node, Express, Mongo, JS + jQuery.

Description: QRL is a minimal multiplayer game for close-knit groups of friends inspired by A Dark Room and Draw Something. Build out your city and protect your walls, gather resources, and raise an army. Then, attack your opponents using timed events that your friends must respond to quickly in order to avoid defeat. Use your knowledge of when your friends are away from their phones to plot your actions, and keep an eye out for spies and treatcherous allies!

Tech: Ruby on Rails, PostgreSQL, JS + jQuery, Bootstrap

Description: TheyGotFit show you before and after pictures that match your fitness goals. Enter your current and desired weight and see photos of other people who've undergone this tranformation. Upload your own photos and share your fitness progress. Inspired by /r/progresspics, I wrote it after being frustrated by looking through page after page for people with my weight who have made the transformation I wanted to make.

Tech: Ruby on Rails, PostgreSQL, JS + jQuery, Bootstrap

Description: A few weeks before the contentious 2016 election, I saw that my friends all vehemently supported one candidate and progressively disregarded the other party, writing them off as uneducated bigots. I was trapped in an opinion bubble. So, I built this project for us to anonymously and directly share our political opinions with our friends - our fellow Americans - across the party line.

Tech: HTML, CSS, JS, jQuery, Node.js, sockets.io

Description: This is a collection of projects I've built. Most are finished, but a few of these are still half-baked!

Shootout is a multiplayer cyberpunk duel arcade game powered by sockets.io and HTML canvas! [Jul 2018]
James Mayr and I set out to collaborate and build an age-old game: Chess. Holy recursion![May 2018]
A little tool to play around with flexbox properties. [Jan 2018]
A sockets.io powered Node/Express/MongoDB game that challenges two players to think of the same word at the same time. [Jan 2018]
What obscure food/science/awareness holiday is today? [Nov 2016]
Battle swarms of flesh-eating Space Squares in this thorwback arcade game! HTMl/CSS/JS with Firebase [Oct 2017]
A traffic simulator built with vanilla JS and HTML canvas
Which is better - the book, or the movie? I created a small project with James Mayr to answer that question. Built in Node + Express, using the Goodreads and IMDB APIs. [Sep 2017]
A GUI for an algorithm that resolves battles between two players with multiple units under various conditions. Stimulate up to 100,000 battles! [Aug 2017]
An HTML canvas project I built as a foundation for a discovery platform. The canvas is populated with "stars", nodes representing real world objects. Clicking a one highlights the nearby stars, and allows you to travel between them. [Oct 2016]
A twinkling star map I built with the HTML canvas. Try moving around with the arrow keys! [Sep 2016]
An HTML canvas project that attempts to recreate collisions between bouncing circles. They're a little odd - but a lot more fun when you turn on the sound. [Aug 2016]
Do you love pong? Do you hate losing at Pong? This musical HTML canvas project is the answer you've been searching for! [Aug 2016]

Music projects

I grew up playing viola and studied music composition with a focus on film scoring. You can see my complete work on my Soundcloud. Here are a few projects I've worked on for music and theater productions:


Run is a snippet of a score I did for a short film of the same name. After unwittingly witnessing a crime in which he's now the primary suspect, the unnamed main character takes off for a desperate run through the city. As he runs, he witnesses scenes that encapsulate his own run. I wrote a Danny Elfman-inspired orchestral score, facing the challenge of frequently evolving the themes with each passing (short) scene.

Flatlander Montage

Flatlander Montage is a montage theme for Hole, a short film by Brian McCann. The film explores the idea of parallel dimensions, and this electronic track underscores a research montage where the main character is researching the surreal and mysterious phenomena he's recently been experiencing.

Fortinbras Unleashed

Fortinbras Unleashed is the electronic main villian theme for a post-apocalyptic Shakesperean zombie Drama, Living Dead in Denmark, written by Qui Nguyen and staged by the Just Kidding Theater Company. The play explores the delicate balance between good and evil, as the (spoiler alert!) zombie-fighting protagonists slowly come to realize they are zombies themselves.

People Projects

Before I start working on a project, I first think about my audience and aim to understand their needs and incentives. Here are projects I worked on without writing either code or music, by leveraging the power of community

It's hard for composers to find a whole orchestra of musicians to play their music. In 2009, while a sophomore at Binghamton University I co-founded an orchestra dedicated to exclusively playing music written by its members. Although the concept of a composers' orchestra is not new, Explorchestra thrives because it welcomes musicians and composers from every genre of music and level of training. Explo creates an environment where an indie rock guitarist can collaborate with a classically trained orchestrator to compose, conduct, and premiere a neo-Romantic composition.

Explorchestra thrives at Binghamton to this day, and has premiered over a hundred new compositions, encouraging some of its members to pursue advanced degrees and careers in music.

In June of 2014, the popular Humans of New York blog published a photo of a homeless bagpiper who had his instrument stolen. After an incredible response in the comment section, I set up a crowd funding campaign that raised $1800 in 1.5 hours. I then found the map in the photo, tracked down his bagpiper maker of choice a renowned bagpipe maker - first in Scoltand, then in Bulgaria - and ordered a custom set with the money we raised. The bagpipes were delivered to Malcolm, the man in the photograph and a musician of 40 years, in August of 2014.

I kept a blog for the generous and kindhearted contributors through the process, and documented the adventure. See the heartwarmning ending to the story for yourself!