Have you ever picked up a Rubik’s Cube and haphazardly tried to line colors up by twisting and turning, only to find yourself making things worse? There’s an algorithm for that, and students at Park are onto it.
Science teacher Carol Buzby, the faculty advisor for the Upper Division Rubik’s Cube Club at Park, has seen students become so skilled they could solve a cube in 17 seconds! Another was working on solving it blindfolded, and several students got to the level of precision where they were genuinely discussing which fingers to use for the fastest rotation.
The club doesn’t just attract committed Rubik’s Cube enthusiasts, however. Carol said that students who had never successfully solved a single face of the cube would show up and become caught up in the culture of students helping each other learn to solve the cubes.
There can be real joy in learning something that at first seems so difficult it’s hard to imagine how others achieve it. Students of all ages at Park have discovered the delight in becoming skilled enough to solve first one side, then another, and gradually shift from being the helped student to the helper. The social component has even trickled down to the Lower Division where students too young to attend the Rubik’s Cube Club help each other solve cubes during recess or on the bus.
Learning algorithms together and increasing solve speed is a fun challenge for students, but it’s just the beginning of what students can achieve with collaborative problem solving. Carol’s Upper Division students have worked together to create Rubik’s Cube mosaics. Using an online tool to convert a photograph into a mosaic grid, students worked together to solve one side of each Rubik’s Cube to match a section of the grid and create the mosaic.
This requires students to solve for unique configurations that don’t have set algorithms or online solutions. It also allows them to create meaningful art together that represents the Park community or current events. Notable mosaics include honoring legendary staff member Betsy Ball and a replica of the COVID-19 virus.
The Rubik’s Cube Club at Park is facing some challenges. Restrictions from COVID-19 have prohibited the multi-grade club from meeting in person while it’s too cold outside, and the lending program from Rubik’s Cube that allowed schools to borrow enough cubes each spring to create the mosaic has been canceled by the company.
Carol, however, remains optimistic. After all, Park excels at problem solving. We just need an algorithm and maybe a little help from a friend. Whether it’s warm weather + a PA grant, or declining infection rates + the Annual Fund, if students can learn to solve a Rubik’s Cube in seconds there’s reason to hope that we can find ways for them to have the space, materials and community to do it.
Can you do this?!? See if you can keep up with Sam (Grade 7)