SEPTEMBER 14, 2023 — lt took Brandon McClelland a minute-and-a-half the first time he tried solving a Rubik’s Cube. The UTSA junior now competes against others in state and national competitions where he averages about 10 seconds to solve the puzzle.
While practicing at home, he’s reduced his speed a few times to the coveted four- or five-second mark. He learned this skill the way a lot of people learn things these days-watching YouTube videos.
“When I was in middle school, it was kind of a craze in Boerne,” McClelland said. “Everyone wanted to solve it, but it seems I am the only one who stuck with it. I latched on to it and I just really, really enjoyed it.”
McClelland started competing in 2017 but took a short hiatus during high school. Recently, he began competing again and has participated in two competitions this year with a third already lined up.
He ranked 196th out of 1,014 challengers at the CubingUSA Nationals 2023 in Pittsburgh this past July. McClelland's next competition will be Cube with Attention in Denton on September 16, where he will be one of a hundred challengers vying for a top score-five seconds or less.
“It’s a lot of memorizing algorithms, which is just a sequence of moves that make the pieces move around the way you want them to,” he said. “For the standard method most people use to solve the cube, there are about 80 algorithms you have to learn.”
McClelland continued, “The top Rubik’s Cube solvers in the world know hundreds to thousands of algorithms and it is part of what makes them faster than everyone else.”
He’s spent hours twisting and turning the small multicolored cubes with the single goal of having each face of the cube a solid color.
He knows about 70 to 80 algorithms.
Part of the attraction to solving a Rubik’s Cube for McClelland is the effect it’s had on him.
“It’s relaxing to me, kind of therapeutic,” McClelland said. “I can sit for hours and continuously practice and solve. My mind is focused on that, even though I usually I watch TV when I am doing it. But it gives me an escape from everything else. Plus, being a part of these competitions is a great way to meet new people and make new friends.”
McClelland is a psychology major who is minoring in criminal justice in the College for Health, Community and Policy. He hopes to put his problem-solving skills to work with his local law enforcement agency by joining the department's community division.
“Every time you solve a Rubik’s Cube it is a different scramble; it’s not always the same,” he said. “Learning to recognize patterns and recognizing them quickly definitely feels like a good skill to have that can be applied to other things in life.”
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