In the time that it takes you to fill up a water bottle in Paresky Commons, Nic Lam ’22 can solve a Rubik’s Cube. Lam’s personal record in competition is 13 seconds, and he can regularly solve one in under 10 seconds.
It hasn’t always been so natural for Lam, as it too k him over five years to perfect his technique. A self-taught cuber, Lam learned Rubik’s Cubing from online sources like YouTube and his peers at his previous school in Hong Kong. He was inspired by the world record holder at the time, Felix Zemdegs, who could solve a Rubik’s Cube in a single speed solve of 4.22 seconds.
“I learned the basic beginner method off of YouTube. Then I began meeting with other cubers and learning their techniques. From there, I kept memorizing algorithms and probably ended up memorizing like 200 algorithms,” said Lam. “I do have a technique. So first, I solve the cross at the bottom, the white cross. And then I build the first two layers at the same time. And then I solve the top layer and then the last, the third layer.”
Once Lam increased his proficiency to a high level, he began entering in local competitions to improve his times.
“I remember my very first competition as a 7th grader. I was nervous and intimidated by all the others because they had better times than me. But, I was inspired and pushed myself harder to become faster. My first competition time was 29 seconds,” said Lam.
After working to get his initial time down, Lam began to expand his involvement in the cubing community at his former school, Hong Kong International School (H.K.I.S.). Lam started a business selling different types of cubes, hosted competitions, and diversified the types of cubes that he used himself.
“I moved beyond 3×3 — I started doing cubes like 4×4 all the way up to 13×13. The main point of the business was to spread awareness about cubing and to get more people at my school involved. It worked better than I had expected it to, and a lot of people on my soccer team got really into it,” said Lam.
Nicole Lee ’22, a friend of Lam’s, attended H.K.I.S. with him. While Lee knew about Lam’s skills prior to arriving at Andover, she still expressed how impressed she was with his ability.
“I think it takes a lot of skill and talent to be able to solve a problem or puzzle that difficult and especially in the time that he can. I always knew that he was very talented and gifted in terms of math and STEM, and so I’m not surprised that he can,” said Lee.
Once Lam arrived at Andover, he stopped competing. However, he found other ways to show off his skills, much to the surprise of his friends.
“He really likes flexing his Rubik’s Cube skills. He just pulled out a Rubik’s Cube one night and he solved it. And then I was like, ‘Wait, what? I did not know that you could do that.’… It’s a pretty sick skill,” said Sean Meng ’22, a friend of Lam’s.
Lam explained how his background with the Rubik’s Cube has taught him both perseverance and focus.
Lam said, “The cube… represented various aspects of my life like perseverance. I learned to push myself beyond my limit even though I had exceeded many other cubers…. It wasn’t just my impressive times that kept me going but rather that I wanted to prove to myself that I could really put my head down and focus on something that I love doing.”
Editor’s Note: Sean Meng is a Business Associate for The Phillipian.