The kid and the cube

Bulletin photo by Stephen Dow

In just a few months, 11-year-old Wyatt Waller taught himself to solve a Rubik’s Cube. Now, he can solve the cube in just over a minute. For his 11th birthday, he and his family made a trip to a Rubik’s Cube competition in Colorado where he competed against 145 Rubik’s Cube enthusiasts.

Since it was created in 1974, the Rubik’s Cube has mystified millions. According to the toy’s website, less than 6 percent of this planet’s 7.6 billion people can solve it.

One of those talented few is 11-year-old Wyatt Waller. Although he has only been playing with the puzzle since January, the Buffalo youngster can solve it in just over a minute.

“My first solve without looking at YouTube videos took about 15 minutes,” Waller said. “Now, I am able to solve a 3-by-3-by-3 cube in about a minute and 20 seconds. It shows that if you keep trying and working hard, you can do anything.”

Waller said he first discovered the puzzle when he stumbled upon a YouTube video of Rubik’s Cube world champion Feliks Zemdegs. Zemdegs, an Australian, can solve the traditional 3-by-3-by-3 cube in 4.73 seconds.

“I thought it looked pretty cool, and I asked my dad if I could get my own Rubik’s Cube,” Waller said. “I watched a lot of YouTube videos about how to solve it, and I solved it for the first time in about two hours. From there, I just kept practicing and improving my time.”

Waller no longer needs to watch instructional videos. His dad, Jim, said his son has memorized hundreds of moves on the cube and knows instinctively how to solve it.

“It’s pretty amazing to watch,” Jim said. ”He has memorized all the algorithms, and it has become second nature for him. I’m pretty proud of him, especially since I am unable to solve one without him helping me every step of the way.”

In recent months, Wyatt has become a full-fledged Rubik’s enthusiast, his dad said. He owns 10 3-by-3-by-3 cubes, five 2-by-2-by-2 cubes and several other puzzles in shapes like spheres and pyramids.

As part of his 11th birthday gift, Waller’s parents drove him to his first Rubik’s Cube competition in Superior, Colorado, over Memorial Day weekend.

Waller competed against 145 cube enthusiasts from across the country. Among the competitors was Anthony Brooks, the fifth-fastest cuber in the world.

“That was amazing to me,” Jim said. “If I’m in a golf tournament, I am not going to be competing against Tiger Woods. But Wyatt was competing against some of the best cubers in the world.”

Thanks to the stiff competition, Waller wasn’t one of the top 64 contestants who made it to the event’s second round. But he isn’t letting that get him down.

“A lot of them have been practicing for a lot longer than I have been,” Wyatt said. “And watching them got me pumped to see if I can solve it even faster.”

Waller said his eventual goal is to solve the 3-by-3-by-3 cube in less than 20 seconds. He also hopes to travel to more competitions and is patiently teaching his dad how to solve the puzzle.

“I don’t think we give our young people full credit for what their minds are capable of,” Jim said. “Wyatt was able to teach himself this very complicated skill in a matter of months, and I still don’t have it down. How great would it be to have the mind of a child?”

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