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San Luis schools vie for state Rubik's Cube title
SAN LUIS, Ariz. — A team of students from San Luis Middle School plan to prove it was no accident a year ago that they won the statewide Rubik's Cube competition.
But not if the rival team Southwest Junior High School has anything to say about it. Southwest captured third place in last year's competition, and this year it thinks it can beat its crosstown rival for the state title.
But both San Luis schools have to do well enough in Saturday's preliminary round to advance to the state finals of the You Can Do the Rubik's Cube competition on March 17 in Phoenix.
The Rubik's Cube, which next year marks its 40th anniversary, is a puzzle consisting of 27 multicolored squares that form a larger cube. The competition pits junior high schools around the state against one another, with the winner being the team that aligns the small squares in solid colors on each side of larger cube in the shortest time.
Arizona State University organizes the competition as part of the Arizona Science and Technology Festival, an annual event that promotes interest among youths in those disciplines.
“There are almost 1,000 different algorithms or ways to solve it,” said Chakravarthy Sunkara, a mathematics teacher at Southwest Junior and adviser to the school's Rubik's Cube team.
“It's the most popular puzzle in the world. “The ability to solve it gives them confidence, and they learn not to give up.”
The Southwest Junior High team placed third in last year's championship despite having only about a month to get ready, and Sunkara said this year's team will go into Saturday's preliminary round with the benefit of more preparation.
He's getting no argument from Hugo Zamudio, a math teacher at San Luis Middle School who coaches that school's team.
“Both schools will do well in the state competition,” Zamudio said. “They (Southwest Junior High) have improved a lot. They are as good as our team.”
As it happened, the teams from San Luis schools faced off this week in an informal competition narrowly won by the San Luis Middle School team. It lined up the sides of each of 25 Rubik's Cubes in three minutes and 35 seconds — 10 seconds faster than the Southwest Junior High team.
Among either team, Oscar Juarez of Southwest Junior High had the fastest individual time, having lined up the sides of his cube in 38 seconds. He was followed closely by teammates Daniel Barraza, finishing in 39 seconds, and Carlos Bernal, 45 seconds.
“We have improved a lot,” said Juarez, an eighth-grader and member of last year's team from Southwest. “We have a good chance to win. They're good also, but we can beat them.”
Saturday's preliminary round will narrow down the field of competitors to six finalists for the state title.