By David Fong
TROY — Conner Smith’s eyes narrowed, his wrists twitched and his fingers flew around the small, multi-colored cube in his hands.
Just 34 seconds later, the Troy Junior High School student received a rousing ovation from an office full of onlookers.
“That’s incredible,” Troy Junior High School Principal Dave Dilbone said, shaking Smith’s hand. “Wow.”
For the past few months, Smith has been hearing such compliments every time he pulls out one of 13 Rubik’s Cubes — or Rubik’s Cube variations — and solves it with incredible speed. Although he just began working with the toy six months ago, almost by accident, Smith quickly is becoming one of the top Rubik’s Cube puzzle solvers in the region.
“When I first started, I was really bad,” Smith said. “It really frustrated me because I couldn’t do it. But I just kept practicing and working on it.”
While practice hasn’t made perfect just yet, Smith is getting closer every day. His fastest time solving the puzzle is 22 seconds — but he said with continued practice, he thinks he can get down to less than 10 seconds soon enough. The current world record for solving a traditional Rubik’s Cube is 4.9 seconds.
Smith stumbled upon his newfound passion almost by accident. The Rubik’s Cube was invented in 1974 by Hungarian sculptor and architect Erno Rubik, but reached the heights of its popularity in the 1980s, becoming a cultural icon of the day.
Although it’s not nearly as popular as it once was, the puzzle — in which players attempt to turn a plastic cube in different directions to get nine colored squares to match on each of the six sides of the cube — has maintained a steady following. Smith discovered the Rubik’s Cube one day while clicking around the Internet.
“I was just watching YouTube and a video came up,” Smith said. “When it came up, I clicked on it and got interested. I watched a lot of videos and kind of learned the moves I needed to do. I wrote them down and memorized them.”
There are approximately 43 quintilian moves that could be used to solve the Rubik’s Cube, but Smith has broken the moves down into a series of algorithms, which allow the user to solve the Rubik’s Cube in 20 moves or less.
“I’m trying to memorize one algorithm every day,” Smith said.
Smith — who said he also enjoys playing basketball and video games — also has branched out beyond the original Rubik’s Cube design and can now solve pyramid-shaped puzzles and cube’s with more than nine squares on each side. He’s been to several seminars and Rubik’s Cube competitions — and is getting quite a following around TJHS, where other students seek to learn from his mastery.
“Everyone just seems fascinated by it,” he said.
Contact David Fong at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong