Many new hobbies came out of the coronavirus pandemic, and it was no different for 12-year-old Angelo Dungca. An idea that came out of his parents watching a Netflix documentary soon became a new skill for the Woodland sixth-grader.
And with help from his mom, Faye, the two started East Meadow’s first speedcubing club.
Speedcubing is a competitive sport that involves solving different combination puzzles, like a Rubik’s Cube, as quickly as you can. The World Cube Association, a group run entirely by volunteers, has governed competitions with over 100,000 people over the past decade.
“Cubing is basically a sport that’s not really well-known,” Angelo said. “It’s more of a community than anything, and once you get into the community it’s really big.”
The WCA recognizes 17 different speedcubing events at their competitions, spanning from the two-by-two to the seven-by-seven, the Pyraminx, which is a triangle-shaped puzzle, the Megaminx, which is a dodecahedron with 12 faces, a Skewb cube, a Square-1, which is a shape-shifting Rubik’s Cube, and the Rubik’s Clock, along with a blindfolded addition of the three-by-three, four-by-four, and five-by-five, the three-by-three fewest moves, and the three-by-three multi-blind.
“The Pyraminx tends to be faster than the three-by-three,” Angelo explained. “It’s simpler because it has less sides.”
The documentary that got the Dungca family interested in cubing, “The Speed Cubers,” follows the lives of speedcubing champions Max Park and Feliks Zemdegs.
“It was during the pandemic when we watched it when everyone was like what can we do, what can we watch, and I just chanced upon it,” Faye said. “I showed Angelo because I thought he would be interested in it, and that same day he was asking for a Rubik’s Cube.”
At the time, Angelo was a fourth-grader at Barnum Woods.
“I just thought it looked cool and I wanted to impress my classmates,” Angelo said. “I was friends with this one kid, and then he bought one and he showed his friends and told them I could solve a Rubik’s Cube. He said he thought it was impossible.”
The size, shape, and how its solved make each puzzle unique. There are hundreds of algorithms used to solve the puzzles in the fastest time possible, and there are special oils and screwdrivers used to make the cubes spin faster or slower. The world record for solving the Rubik’s Cube is 3.47 seconds, held by Yusheng Du from China.
Angelo’s time to solve a Rubik’s Cube is sub-20 seconds, but his goal is sub-15 seconds. “It took me three days with a lot of trial and error,” he said. “Solving it layer by layer is the easiest way.”
Watching YouTube videos is what helped Angelo grow his skill with speedcubing. He’s competed in a couple of different competitions. His first one was in Albany last January.
“If it was in driving distance we tried to register,” Faye said. “But on the day of registration, you’d be surprised how many individuals try to register because in 10 seconds it’s closed.”
Angelo and Faye decided to start the speedcubing club in September 2021 just to see if there was anyone else around that would be interested. The two were surprised with how many people showed up, and they met at the East Meadow Public Library.
“I said why don’t we see within the community, there might be other speedcubers here, other like-minded individuals,” Faye said. “We started opening it up more, and now we have people from Queens, Levittown, Suffolk, and people from the East Meadow area.”
They decided to name the club GANg, after one of the most popular cube-making companies — GAN. Meetings started twice a month but slowed down due to lives getting busy again. They even got a well-known speedcuber, Alex Maass, to come help out.
Faye found that there were some people who wanted to join but didn’t know how to speed cube, so she decided to set up a workshop at the library. The workshops took place on Jan. 11 and 18, and each time they had almost 20 people.
“The reception was very warm,” Faye said. “When I posted it on Facebook, the interest was there, and that’s why when I spoke with the librarian I suggested a mini competition.”
The mini-competition is set to take place on Feb. 18 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the EMPL. Events include the three-by-three, two-by-two, and Pyraminx. To register visit eastmeadow.info. Prizes will be given out.
“Alex (Maass) is coming and another WCA delegate even though it’s not an official WCA competition,” Faye explained. “The main competition will be in the auditorium.”
Angelo said he’s excited about the speedcubing competition, even though he doesn’t think he’s going to win. “My friend will probably win but it’s okay,” he said. “I’ve made a lot of friends, I thought there was only me and like two other people, but no, there’s lots, like you can probably have a whole cluster of kids.”