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MMS students master old-school Rubik's Cube

By CLAIRE GALVIN

Chronicle Staff Writer

MANSFIELD — What can you accomplish in 30 seconds?

If your answer is, not much, you clearly haven’t seen Mansfield Middle School students solve the Rubik’s Cube.

The whole school is working to learn the cube — an early 1980s toy fad making a big comeback — but Mansfield Middle School’s Rubik’s Cube team of eight students ranks best in state.

Douglas Perkins, the math and science enrichment teacher, said a few of the students on the team can solve the cube in under 30 seconds.

“It’s hard to learn how to master the cube and kids like that challenge,” Perkins said. “Kids feel a real sense of accomplishment when they figure it out.”

Perkins is currently assembling next year’s team from the fifth- through eighth-graders at the school.

“We just started the leader board,” Perkins said. “Kids have come in since the beginning of the year to learn the cube, but kids have been more motivated and try to keep moving up the leader board. That will decide the final team.”

The team competes in May at the Clark Lane Middle School in Waterford.

This past May, the team ranked first in Connecticut for Division 2 (grades 6-8).

Conner Dudas (27.8 seconds), Devon Hesselbein (28.6 seconds) and YoungJin Park (30.2 seconds) rank 1, 2 and 3 in the state for solo middle school students.

In fact, Mansfield’s team is ranked 36th in the country for all middle and high school teams.

Perkins said all the students are returning and are working to improve their average cube times.

In the competition, the students faced a moment of panic when the table they were working over collapsed mid-challenge.

“They just kept solving as if nothing had happened,” Perkins said. “They were in the zone. It’s a testament that when they’re focused on it, even a table collapsing on them will not phase them.”

Perkins said Rubik’s has been innovative in marketing the puzzle through the decades.

When the school first started practicing the cube four years ago, Rubik’s loaned them 600 cubes to get started.

“It doesn’t have batteries, doesn’t have to be plugged in and it’s easy to store,” Perkins said. “There has been a resurgence of interest because of the fidget spinner craze. The tactile motion and mechanics of that is attractive and helpful for kids.”

Perkins said there is a six-step strategy to learn the cube and it starts with arranging the white cubes into a cross on one face of the cube.

Regardless of how the cubes are “scrambled,” every cube can be solved within 20 moves, according to the Rubik’s cube guides that are available online at rubiks.com.

One member of the team, seventh-grader Clara Johnson, said she enjoys participating on the team and will continue next May.

“I enjoy the simplicity of the cube, even though I guess it’s not that simple,” Johnson said.

All students are getting involved through a school wide mosaic made of Rubik’s Cubes.

Each homeroom is responsible for making part of the mosaic, by arranging one side of the cube to display part of the pixelated picture.

This year’s mosaic will be a butterfly to go along with the school play, “I Never Saw Another Butterfly,” about children in Holocaust concentration camps.

 

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