BLOOMINGTON — Move over, fidget spinners. The Rubik’s Cube is making a comeback.
“It’s definitely popular again. There’s a resurgence and excitement which is great to see,” said Jimmy Baker of Bloomington, ambassador with You can Do the Rubik's Cube. “It came back for me because I got tired of watching my kids playing video games. Solving a puzzle is so much better.”
And on Saturday, about 50 students from kindergarten to high school competed in the Central Illinois Rubik’s Cube Competition at Bloomington Public Library. There are 43 quintillion methods to solving a Rubik's Cube, and Baker said the puzzle is "all about recognizing patterns and spatial relations."
"I've watched my son go through the evolution of solving it and becoming faster. He looks for efficiencies in the formula which relates back to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)," said Baker.
Saturday’s participants competed in solo and group rounds. Contenders sat back to practice before their turns, filling the room with sounds of plastic clicking as they twisted a colorful cube.
Timothy Tofte, 10, of Downs, said it was his first competition after “cubing” for a few months. “It keeps my mind off of things while using my brain to learn new algorithms,” said Tofte.
He practiced with Benjamin Houchin, 15, of Heyworth, who picked up the hobby after finding an old Rubik’s Cube in his sister’s room.
“I enjoy it because the solution is different every time,” he said. “It works your brain and takes a lot more thought than just sitting on your phone or social media. I have my cube on me all the time.”
During a solo round, a cube flashed in the hands of Jonathan Farinas, 9, while a timer ran and a judge watched his moves.
In just over a minute he had the cube solved.
“He enjoys the speed of it; seeing how fast he can get,” said his dad, Eric Farinas of Bloomington. “It’s nice to see his determination to solve the puzzle and I hope that carries on to other areas of his life.”
Daniel Chisholm, 11, of LeRoy, conquered the cube in 50 seconds. He left the table, beaming, to receive high-fives from his teammates.
“That was my best time. I’m pretty excited about that,” he said. “You can do a lot of cool stuff on the Rubik’s Cube and solve it in all sorts of different ways. I’m teaching my mom and dad how to do it now.”
His mom, Deborah Chisholm, enjoys watching her son perfect his technique. “It’s beautiful to watch his brain and fingers fly together. It’s great for him to use those 3-D mind skills,” said Chisholm.
Selah Baker, 8, of Bloomington, watched other players compete after she nailed a solving time of about 90 seconds. “I like to concentrate on then. I do it over and over and I practice a lot. I’m always picking it up,” she said.
In just 15 seconds, 16-year-old Spencer Chubb of Bloomington had the Rubik's Cube complete. He said his best time is about 12 seconds.
"I literally always have a cube on me," said Chubb. "I like improving and trying different methods."
The event was sponsored by the library, State Farm, You Can do the Rubik’s Cube, Gingerbread House and Fresh Thyme.
Classes for the cube novice or beginner are held regularly at Bloomington Public Library. The 3-D puzzle, invented in 1974, is a six-sided square box with each "face" containing nine smaller boxes designated by one of six colors. The goal is to manipulate each of the boxes until each face becomes a solid color.