So you think you can RUBIX?

There are many talents that are hidden all over in our school. One that has come to light lately is the special talent that junior Eric Cheng has: the ability to solve pretty much any rubik’s cube faster than most people. Cheng has the ability to solve a 3×3 rubik’s cube in a record time of 13 seconds flat.

“I started doing rubik’s cubes about nine months ago when I was 15. My mom was in the hospital for a while and told me to find something to keep me occupied, so I grabbed a cube and learned how. Ever since then it’s been a hobby for me,” Cheng said.

Another person who enjoys solving rubik’s cubes at the school is math teacher Rich Strike.

“I started two winter breaks ago because one of my life goals was to learn how to solve a rubik’s cube before I turned 50”, Strike said.

There are multiple types and combinations of rubik’s cubes, including 2×2’s, 3x3s, 4x4s and so on until 10x10s. There are also different types of cubes where instead of putting colors in the same order, one has to put the shapes in the right combinations to make a cube. There are also pyramid shaped puzzles (pyraminx)  and many other variations of these types of puzzles.

“I have finished the 2×2, 3×3 and 4×4 cubes. I have also finished the pyramid shaped puzzle, but total I’ve tried six different types,” Strike said.

“It’s actually hard to count how many types of cubes or puzzles I’ve finished. I’ve finished the 2×2, 3×3, 4×4 and 5×5. I also have completed the pyraminx, the megaminx and many other variations of these types of puzzles,” Cheng said.

There are many techniques that different people use. Some are similar in methods of solving a particular puzzle, but every person has a particular style of doing things.

“I don’t really have a pattern for them, but these puzzles [cubes] are all algorisms. I don’t have a record time. I just end up finishing them eventually. Some helpful hints for others are don’t cheat and try to find patterns,” Strike said.

Cheng also uses a systematic approach to solving these little mind benders. He likes to consult the strategies of previous puzzle solvers.

“I have different methods for different puzzles. I use the Ortega method to solve the 2×2. Yau for 4×4 and Findrich for 3×3 and many other methods for other puzzles. Some tips for others who want to learn are you have to spend a lot of time with these puzzles, and you have to be really patient,” Cheng said.

His persistence has paid off, for he recently qualified for the World Cube Association’s U.S. Nationals. The U.S. Nationals took place at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas on Aug. 3 to 5. There were over 200 contestants there that participated in a variety of different types of puzzle solving.

“I didnt place anything at Nationals, but it was a great experience. There were three or four conference rooms that the WCA [World Cube Association] rented out for this. There were merchandise rooms, rooms where blindfolded competitions were held, and then there was the main room with two tables where hundreds of us competed. I participated in the 3×3, 4×4 and 5×5 competitions,” Cheng said.

Not only does Eric know how to solve cubes and other puzzles well, but he’s also passed this onto his little brother Jason.

“I taught my little brother how to solve cubes. I taught him 3×3, but he taught me about the pyraminx, and we both compete. My brother is better than me in competitions in 2×2, 3×3 and pyraminx. I’m better than Jason in 5×5, 4×4 and 3×3 one handed,” Cheng said.

Regardless of competition skills, Cheng still has his puzzles of preference.

“My favorite cube to solve is the 3×3 because it’s complex but still easy to solve. The newest ones I’ve been working on are 5×5, megaminx and the floppy cube, which is 3x3x1. I have about seven in my backpack. I just always keep them around because they’re something to do when I’m bored. It’s the same as having a phone for me except that teachers can’t just take away my cubes,” Cheng said.

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