William Liu ’20 hails from Shanghai, China, and is currently a junior at St. Andrew's, living on Sherwood Corridor. William sings in the Andrean Ensemble and Noxontones; runs on the cross-country team; competes with the Math Team; and gives swim lessons to local special needs children through the Adapted Aquatics program. In his spare time, William enjoys making short films with his drone and competing in Rubik's cube competitions.
I was introduced to Rubik’s cubing in 2015 when a friend from my old school offered to teach me. I learned more on my own, started to practice, and taught myself different types of cubes. The standard one is three [rows] times three [rows] times three [rows], and I also learned two times two times two, and then the four by four, five by five, six by six, seven by seven, and many irregular shaped cubes.
The first time I competed was November 2015 in Wuhan, China. It was a China Open [tournament] and I was out in the first round, but my friend won first place on one of the irregular shaped cubes. The way competitions are ranked, people solve a cube five times and take [the average] the middle three times. The world record right now is 4.3 seconds. I’ve competed in different places in China, and I won second place one time. I also competed in the 2017 World Championship in Paris.
When I came to St. Andrew's for an interview, I showed Mr. Wolinkski cubing. I was around 29 seconds at that time, and I gave Mr. Wolinski one of the souvenir cubes that has my face on it, so I think that's how he remembered me [during the application process]. Before I came St. Andrew's, I used to practice cubing for two hours every day, and now it's more like three hours every week. A lot less, but I still try to keep doing it so I don't forget how.
I created a Rubik’s cube club at St. Andrew’s this year, and we teach people who are interested in cubing how to solve different cubes. There are several people on campus who are really good at Rubik’s cubing and in the club, they help me teach kids who are just beginning. Many people picture a Rubik’s cube as solving six sides, but it’s actually three layers, like building a Lego set. It's three dimensional geometry, so you have to look at one side and picture all the other sides at the same time. And then it's hand coordination and memorization. I've memorized around 200 algorithms and they become muscle memory. When I see one case on the top layer, I can react in a second, and my hands just start moving. I don't even need to think about what algorithm is anymore.
There’s one really fun challenge I’ve done with my friends called the “Subway Challenge.” You scramble a three by three standard Rubik’s cube, stand by the subway door, and when it opens you leave the train and solve it and you cannot re-enter until you finish. So if you cannot solve it, your subway train leaves without you. There are also competitions that involve solving a cube with one hand or blindfolded. Blindfolded, you have time to look at the cube for two minutes. You memorize every single piece by color orientation and direction.
There is a world record for the oldest person to solve a cube and the youngest person to solve a cube, but I forgot what they are. I've seen people as young as four to do competitions, and I see a lot of older people at competitions. I read that there is actually proof that doing Rubik’s cubes can prevent the elderly from losing memories. I made my grandparents do Rubik’s cubes and they really enjoyed it.
I used to see people do Rubik’s cubes and think it was magic, but anyone can solve one. You have to memorize a minimum of three algorithms. It's a formula—if you encounter this case you do these certain 15 moves, and you can solve it. It takes two days for someone to understand how to do it with a hint, and then if you completely memorize this process, it might take a week, practicing 15 minutes everyday. I’m proof that this actually works.
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