University of Michigan mechanical engineering students unveiled a 1,500-pound Rubik’s Cube on Thursday.
Its creators believe it to be the world’s largest hand-solvable, stationary version of the famous three-dimensional puzzle.
Those confident enough to try to solve the 1,500 pound, mostly aluminum apparatus, might want to lift some weights in preparation. Moving around those huge squares is not for weaklings.
It is an exact replica of the original colorful Rubik’s Cube, except the white square has been replaced with purple.
The cube was imagined, designed and built by two teams of mechanical engineering undergraduate students over the course of three years.
And when a colorful covering was pulled off the cube Thursday, those gathered on the second floor of the UM Mechanical Engineering Department’s G.G. Brown Building, cheered, applauded and snapped photos.
Student Ben Pinzone stood near the cube, just gazing at it, following the presentation.
“It is absolutely amazing,” said Pizone, 20, a sophomore majoring in computer science engineering. “It is because of the drive of students like these that I came to UM.”
When Samuelina Wright, one of the creators of the cube walked by, Pinzone said to her, “This is so awesome.”
Wright, 24, who now works for Boeing in Seattle, fought back tears as she addressed the crowd during the unveiling.
“Bringing this to life was rewarding, but I didn’t realize how much joy it would bring from conception to unveiling,” she said.
Wright said it was a bittersweet moment.
“It took over my life, but it no longer is a project,” she said. “My dream for the cube would be to bring joy and inspiration to anyone who ever uses it and solves it. If it does that, there’s nothing I’d rather be behind at UM.”
Wright’s parents, Kathleen and Jonathan Wright, both proudly taped their daughter’s speech with their cellphones.
The first group of students came up with the idea for the cube on Pi Day in 2014.
Martin Harris, who can solve one in 43 seconds, and Wright, who can deconstruct one and reassemble it in a solved state, were hanging out in an office in the College of Engineering.
Harris was fiddling with his cube when Wright had a vision: What if they made a massive version similar to the central campus sculpture? That cube spirals round and round but cannot be solved. It’s more a piece of art.
The two got approval to carry the idea forward as a capstone senior design project.
The first team of four students — Kelsey Hockstad, Dan Hiemstra, Harris and Wright—worked on it for two years and graduated in 2016. The cube still needed fine tuning as well as a stand. They convinced another group — Jason Hoving, Ryan Kuhn and Doug Nordman — to continue the project. The original team stayed involved to guide them.
Noel Perkins, a professor of mechanical engineering, served as adviser for the student teams.
“This was entirely their idea, and I am elated, thrilled and slightly sad that it’s over,” he said.