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Arjun Barrett

Arjun Barrett

2022 Davidson Fellow
$10,000 Scholarship

Age: 16
Hometown: Santa Clara, CA

Technology: “FFlate: A universal high-performance compression library optimized for web browsers”

About Arjun

My name is Arjun Barrett. I am a rising high school senior at the Harker School in San Jose, California. My primary interest is computer science. I spend much of my free time working on dozens of open-source projects. 

I enjoy writing award-winning articles as the STEM Columnist and Managing Editor for my school newspaper. I started my school’s App Development Club to create apps for nonprofit organizations. I also teach introductory programming to underprivileged girls at an orphanage in my father’s hometown in India. In my spare time, I enjoy building LEGOS, designing and building high-performance hardware, and ice skating.

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"Being a Davidson Fellow means more to me than a scholarship and a prestigious title; it’s validation that my work has meaningfully contributed to society, and as someone who dreams of making the world a better place, that is an honor I treasure beyond any award."

Project Description

FFlate is a software tool that enables websites to process ZIP archives, PDFs, PNG images, 3D models, and a plethora of other compressed file formats faster than ever before. FFlate is freely accessible on GitHub as open-source software and has been downloaded over 60 million times by programmers around the world. NASA, Microsoft, and Google all use FFlate to improve their products, while various educational websites and hospitals use it to provide tutorials and to access medical data. The novel techniques FFlate uses have made the internet faster and more
accessible to people in developing regions worldwide.

Deeper Dive

My project was a JavaScript software library called FFlate that enables web developers to compress and decompress data as quickly and effectively as possible. It is the fastest and smallest compression library available in web browsers, and as compression optimization is needed in a plethora of applications (compressed uploads, ZIP/PNG/PDF file processing, Microsoft Office compatibility, etc.), FFlate accelerates website performance and load times worldwide. I initially developed FFlate to optimize one of my personal projects, a level viewer for the video game “Geometry Dash”. Once I realized that my implementation was the fastest one in JavaScript, I made it available freely online, and it quickly became popular in the open source community. Today, it has reached over 60 million downloads and 1,300 GitHub stars.

I faced many challenges throughout the development of FFlate, including my lack of experience in data compression and an accident that caused me to lose a significant amount of progress; however, I ultimately persevered by teaching myself new concepts in information theory and finished the first version of FFlate on my own. While I created FFlate without any external help, I would never have had the opportunity to explore computer science as a hobby without the endless support of my parents. I am also extremely thankful for my CS teacher and the open source community, especially the developer of SheetJS, who encouraged me to continue maintaining the project and supported my work within the larger community. I was fortunate to have minimal issues in creating my project despite the COVID-19 lockdown.

I anticipate that FFlate will continue to improve the web for many years to come. FFlate is especially impactful in developing regions, where its smaller size and greater efficiency than prior alternatives make a major difference in digital data access and website accessibility. For example, several hospitals use FFlate to reduce the time and bandwidth needed to access medical files. I also hope that the novel techniques I developed for FFlate, such as my recursive decompiler that regenerates JavaScript source code at runtime, will be borrowed by other open source developers to make their own tools and libraries faster.


What is your favorite Olympic sport?

Figure skating. I was actually a figure skater for 5 years when I was younger, and I'm constantly amazed by how talented Olympic skaters are.

What is your favorite tradition or holiday?

Holi is the festival of color in Hindu culture. For Holi, we often have hundreds of people throw pigment powder at each other in a large field. It's a fun occasion, and we're always covered in vibrant colors by the end!

What is your favorite hobby?

Beyond coding, my favorite hobby is definitely journalism. I often spend countless hours writing deep-dive tech articles for my school's online newsletter, and I love creating aesthetically pleasing page designs for our newspaper.

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In The News

San Francisco – The Davidson Fellows Scholarship Program has announced the 2022 scholarship winners. Among the honorees are Arjun Barrett, 16, of Santa Clara, Elane Kim, 17, of Walnut Creek, and Indeever Madireddy, 17, of San Jose. Only 21 students across the country are recognized as 2022 scholarship winners.

Download the full press release here