Benjamin Voller-Brown

The Race That Changed Everything

Benjamin Voller-Brown (15, USA)

Solving the Rubik’s cube has always been a fun pastime for me. I do it when I have time in school, giving me a distraction from the busy and crazy school life. Every Friday my school has a study hall. Because I am a dedicated student, I already have all of my homework done. This leaves me time to solve the cube. This teacher is one of the most popular in the school. For the first half of the year, I would be solving my cube, and when I looked up I would see a smirk on her face. For months, I thought she was merely intrigued, never did I expect her to be criticizing my solves only a few months later.

Every Friday, Mrs. L would present the class with a challenge. If someone in the class could complete the challenge, the entire class would get no homework for the weekend. One of these challenges was to solve a Rubik’s cube. As soon as she said it she looked at me and smiled, along with the rest of my class, for everybody in that class called me “the kid with the cube”. Of course, I volunteered. I knew this was my time to shine. However, as soon as I got to the front of the class, I saw her take out 3 Rubik’s cubes; one two by two, one three by three, and one four by four. Unbeknownst to me, my study hall teacher, Mrs. L, knows how to solve many Rubik’s cubes. Ranging from the two-by-two to the four-by-four, she knew them all. This was going to be a relay race!

Myself against my teacher. I was fighting for freedom over the weekend, I knew I had to win. The first words that shocked me were, “this is going to be a relay solve, Ben versus me”. I went to my desk in absolute confusion and took out my 3 cubes. I had no clue that she could solve a cube. We scrambled, inspected and started. First was the two by two. I average about seven seconds, she averages 5. It was a pretty even solve; both of us finished simultaneously. Clearly, this was going to be much tougher than I thought!

We advanced to the three by three. I was feeling nervous but excited, this was my first competition! The clicking of the cubes echoed through the classroom. The once rainbow puzzle was rapidly evolving, turning into a magnificent piece of six-sided art. After a lucky pll-skip, I dropped my cube and moved to the four by four. This was going to be the toughest; I seldom used the four by four. I was prepared, but was it going to be enough? After getting a five-second head start on the four by four, Mrs. L picked up hers. It looked like it might be a photo finish. Using the Yao method, I average 2 minutes. After completing opposite centers, I saw she was using the reduction method, giving me a few dozen extra seconds. My Cyclones four by four is extremely prone to popping, and after finishing the first two layers, I had a minor pop. Nothing too bad, but it startled me. My permutations slowed. Ultimately, after 3 minutes of straight solving, the clicking stopped. I looked down. I won!

I heard dozens of relieved gasps– we wouldn’t have homework.

This one competition brought Mrs. L and myself closer and now, during study hall we occasionally race. On the other days, she brings her son into the classroom from the daycare downstairs and I teach him how to solve. This has been going on for about a month, and her 5-year-old son has already memorized how to get the first two layers. On the days where nothing interesting is going on, I reflect back to that initial race. The race that gave me confidence. The race that gave me a mentor. The race that gave me a friend.