Dylan Miller first saw a Rubik’s Cube about two years ago at a garage sale at his school. He was intrigued, bought it, and it soon started gathering dust in his bedroom.
But after a few months, he picked it up again. Figuratively speaking — and almost literally — he hasn’t put it down.
In the process, Dylan, 11, has become very good at Rubik’s Cubes. How good? He once solved a scrambled cube in 6.47 seconds, which is a little over a second longer than the world record. He solves the puzzle in under 10 seconds so frequently that his goal is to make that his average time.
“I’m hoping to be a world record-holder one day,” he said. “But you can’t really predict the future, can you?”
No. But it’s a safe bet he won’t stop trying any time soon.
“He practices all the time,” said his father, Marshall Miller. “He probably practices more than anybody I’ve seen on the circuit. It never leaves his hand. It goes with him everywhere he goes, even to Boy Scout campouts. He’s always got it with him.”
Not that Dylan has become a total Rubik’s robot. He plays basketball and flag football at Baton Rouge Lutheran School. But if there is an idle moment, expect him to be holding a cube, spinning it constantly.
Dylan ranks 183rd nationally in the 3-by-3 cube that was invented in 1974 by Hungarian Erno Rubik. He’s ranked 264th in the world for his average time solving the 2-by-2 version, and 56th nationally.
The Rubik’s Cube features six sides with red, green, blue, yellow, orange and white squares. Once scrambled, the trick is to get each side filled with just one color.
That is, it’s tricky for novices. For enthusiasts such as Dylan, it’s merely a question of how fast.
The cubes used in competition are not the same as those sold in most garage sales. Competition cubes are engineered for speed, and serious competitors use lubrication and sandpapering to achieve the perfect balance of speed and control.
Still, the cube won’t solve itself.
In competition, the cube is covered until the competitor is ready, and he or she gets 15 seconds to examine it before starting. The timer begins when the competitor’s fingers lift from a touch pad and stops when they return the cube after it’s solved.
Experienced cubists learn the algorithms necessary to move the colored tiles.
“What I do is I plan out my first maybe six to 10 moves … and that gives me time to look around at the rest,” Dylan said. “Whenever I’m solving it, you don’t want to pause. That’s really what makes you good. You want to consistently look ahead during your solve. You don’t want to be focusing on what you’re doing. You want to be focusing on what’s ahead of you. That, and turning fast is what makes you fast.”
So, Dylan practices. And practices. On school nights, it might be one to three hours — after homework, of course. On weekends, he said, it might be seven or eight hours.
There are always more patterns to recognize, more algorithms to learn.
Dylan said his school friends aren’t particularly interested in it but see it as his thing.
His parents liken it to a line in the movie “Searching for Bobby Fischer,” which was about the famed, reclusive world chess champion.
“‘He is better at this than anything I’ve ever been at in my entire life,’” said Marshall Miller, quoting the movie. “That’s kind of how my wife and I see it. He just really took to that, and he just went straight on. I guarantee you he practices more than anybody I’ve seen.”
“At least in Louisiana,” Dylan added.