If there was a problem
Yo, they’ll solve it
Check out the cube while my boys revolve it!
Admit it, you’ve played with a Rubik’s Cube at some point in your life. That addictive little toy which became a pop-culture fixture of my childhood during the 1980’s, has both delighted and frustrated millions of people of all ages and around the world, for nearly three decades. Honestly, I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’ve never been able to solve a Rubik’s Cube, outside of removing the stickers or becoming so completely frustrated with one that I smash it against a wall or with a hammer. If you’re one of the lucky ones who can legitimately claim to have solved the magic cube–it may have taken you a day, a year or even a lifetime and the constant trial and error method was so mind-numbing, you’re probably not too eager to start the process all over again. Nevertheless, two young Kentuckians are doing just that, over-and-over again, by competing to see who can solve the iconic 3-D puzzle the fastest. For them, they make it look incredibly easy, solving the cube in only a matter of seconds–so fast in fact, they’re getting noticed and even setting World Records in the process.
This weekend I spoke with the bluegrass boys, sitting down with my good buddy, 10 year old Luke Griesser and phoning 15 year old, Lucas Etter, to learn more about that cube life. Both are back from competing against one another and 600 other super-cubers in the 2016 Rubik’s Cube US Nationals which was held on July 29 – 31 in Portland, OR. Luke lives in Georgetown and is currently ranked 81st in the world with an astounding 6.66 second 3×3 solve. His friend and fellow competitor Lucas, lives in Lexington, was the overall winner of the 2016 US Nationals with an average speed of 7.54 seconds. Etter is currently ranked 1st in the world–even holding the Guinness World Record for his phenomenal 4.90 second 3×3 solve, which garnered national attention on November 21, 2015.
Here’s Luke solving a cube in 11:43 seconds, during our interview.
So tell me guys, when did you start playing with Rubik’s cubes? Did you just find one laying around the house?
Luke: When I was eight, a friend of my sister brought over a Rubik’s Cube and I don’t know whether or not she just left it at our house or gave it to my sister, but either way I picked up the cube and started to play with it. I took it to my room and watched some YouTube videos on how to solve it, but it took me six full months before I could finally solve one.
Lucas: I found one at my grandparents’ house. At first I just was looking to solve it, so I would play around with it off and on, but not really thinking about speed. But about a year later, I picked it back up and started timing myself and practicing more and saw that I was improving.
How do you solve a Rubik’s Cube? What’s the secret?
Luke: There is no secret!
So you’re saying, taking the stickers off or smashing it against a wall is the method to use huh?
Luke: Ha. Well, you can memorize “methods” kinda like algorithms for different ways on how to solve it. The one I use is called Fridrich or F2L method.
Lucas: You think about it in layers, like a cake. Starting with the bottom layer and working your way up to the top. Speed cubers refer to it as CFOP.
Is it something you could teach to people?
Luke: Yes, but it might take a while.
Lucas: The basic beginners method isn’t too hard to learn.
When did you start competing?
Luke: When I got down to solving one in around 30 seconds. It was actually on my birthday last year.
Lucas: In 2011, when I was about 9 years old. I got to see for myself the feel of what competing was like and it inspired me to want to compete more.
Lucas walk me through what you were thinking after you set the World’s Record last year?
Lucas: Honestly, nothing was too special about the cube when I was inspecting it. I got some easy cases at the end of the solve, and I was shocked because I had actually skipped a couple of steps when I put my hands down. I was excited, but I really couldn’t believe what just happened.
Here’s the video of Lucas’ World Record solve. Blink and you might miss it.
So what’s your goal with all this?
Luke: My dad said he wants me to keep getting better and improve my time, so that’s a challenge.
Lucas: I’ve had a lot of accomplishments which is something to be proud of, but I want to continue to improve my times. I’d also like to travel overseas to compete more and just experience what’s out there. Getting more involved with the cubing community and organizing competitions is something that interests me too.
Is this something you’ll do when you get older?
Luke: I’ll probably stop when I’m about 30.
What’s so special about 30?
Luke: By then I’ll have to get a career. Anyways, I’m not worried, because if this doesn’t work out, I can always go to the NBA.
Kentuckians are a proud bunch and it’s cool to know we’ve got a couple of really incredible competitors in our own back yard. I’d like to thank the Griesser’s and the Etter’s for allowing me to talk with their kids. I hope both Luke and Lucas pursue their dreams, whatever those may be, and continue to make Kentucky proud. So whether you’re 8 or 80 and you’d like to know more about speed cubing, you can visit this website here. Likewise, if you’re interested in checking out the official rankings or upcoming cubing events, you can learn about those on the World Cube Associations website here.