puzzler

Trent Nelson started his Rubik’s Cube solving hobby less than a year ago, but has already accomplished excellent speeds and recently participated in a state competition. 

 

Six seconds.

In six seconds, rapper Eminem can rattle off 39 words; a honeybee can flap its wings 3,600 times; and Bill Gates can earn approximately $500.

What else can happen in six seconds? Mora eighth grader Trent Johnson can solve a 2 inch by 2 inch Rubik’s Cube. Even more surprising than this feat is Trent didn’t pick up a Rubik’s Cube until seven months ago.

“One of my cousins gave me a cube for Christmas last year and one day I just decided to try to solve it,” Trent said. “I looked up a tutorial on YouTube of how to solve the cube. It took me about three hours to solve at first. I just kept on learning more algorithms and concepts and kept getting faster and faster.

“My fastest solve for a 3 by 3 cube is 11.36 seconds, but my average is about 16 seconds,” he said adding he can solve a Pyraminx Cube — shaped like a triangle —in 11 seconds and a Skewb Cube — in 15 seconds. A Skewb Cube differs from a Rubik’s Cube in that its “axes of rotation pass through the corners of the cube rather than the centers of the faces,” according to Wikipedia.

Competition

Trent has parlayed his need for speed into participating in Cubetcha!, a cube-solving competition held Dec. 4 in Brooklyn Park.

“I had heard about Rubik’s Cube competitions and really wanted to attend one because it sounded fun,” Trent said. “I wanted to get my solve times officially recorded in the World Cube Association records.” 

At Cubetcha! competitors can participate in 3 by 3, 3 by 3 one-handed solve, 5 by 5, Skewb and Pyraminx contests. Cubing is for all ages, Trent said, so everyone competes together regardless of age or gender. Some competitions even have a 3 by 3 blindfolded event. 

“At each competition, you bring your own cubes. Someone else mixes them up and then you get 15 seconds to look at the cube,” Trent said. After concentrating on the cubes for 15 second while resting hands on a timer, the competitor lifts their hands and the timing starts.

“As soon as the cube is solved you put your hands back down on the timer and the time stops,” Trent said. “You get to do five solves. Your slowest and fastest times are removed and then the remaining three solves are averaged. That average is your score.”

Trent said he did “really well for this being my first competition.” Unlike other games of skill, this is not a head-to-head competition. “It’s just to try to beat your own times,” Trent said. 

Trent’s best time was during his second round, where he averaged solving the for a 3” by 3” cube in16.55 seconds. His average for solving the same-sized cube with one hand was 38.7 seconds. For Pyraminx, his average was 9.67 seconds and in the two rounds of Skewb solving, his first round averages were better than his second with 14.66 seconds. 

Carter Kucala of Plymouth set a world record at Cubetcha! by solving the Skewb with an average solve time of 1.86 seconds.

A game for everyone

Unlike in the early 1980s, when Rubik’s was the only cube in play, these days Rubik’s Cube may be the name of the game, but many companies manufacture the various sizes and types of cubes.

“My favorite cube is a Moyu RS3M 2020 JPerm edition,” Trent said. “I like this cube because it has magnets to assist with it turning smoothly. It’s an easier cube to control.” 

Trent, who also plays eighth-grade basketball and is in the band at Mora High School, said he generally always has a cube in his hands or pocket. He also has the full support of his parents, Kristy and Derek Johnson.

“Trent is a really active kid who likes to move and always be busy doing things,” Kristy said. “Having a cube in his hand has really helped give him a positive outlet for his energy. As a parent it’s been really fun to see Trent dive into an activity he loves and is self-motivated to do — and be able to excel in something that his older brothers can’t do.”

The Johnsons usually live in Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea, where they will be returning in a few days.

“Once Trent taught himself how to solve the cube … (he) taught some of his friends (in Ukarumpa) how to solve the cube,” Kristy said. “Now his friends there have been practicing their cubing skills. Trent is excited to return to Ukarumpa and do some cubing with his friends there.”

When not maneuvering the cube Trent can be found cooking, “especially making brownies and bread from scratch.” He also believes cubing is something anyone can do just by watching videos and documentaries on Netflix. In spite of managing how to learn the skill and enter his first competition, Trent remains modest about his abilities.

“I’m really just an average cuber,” he said. “There are a lot of people who are so much better than me.”

But he may not be average for long, since he plans to keep practicing on his various devices until he gets “better and better.”

“I am currently working on learning how to solve the 4 by 4 and want to start the 5 by 5 soon,” he said. “I want to go to other competitions and beat my previous times. I want to expand my cubing skills and knowledge.”

 

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