A 1980s toy has become so much more for Lucas Thompson.
The 12-year-old St. John Lutheran sixth grader, who is the son of Christal and Keith Thompson, is ranked in the top 80 in the state in solving 3x3 and 4x4 Rubik's Cube puzzles, and in the top 90 of the state in solving 2x2 cubes.
According to the World Cube Association, which is the Rubik's Cube's international governing body, Thompson's personal record for solving a single 3x3 Rubik's Cube in competition is 18.12 seconds, with 6.06 seconds for a 2x2 cube.
His average is 20.69 seconds and 8.07 seconds, respectively, with his fastest recorded time with a 3x3 cube being 16 seconds. The highest mass-produced cubes are 13x13s, which run about $300.
"I saw a kid at my school do it one day," Thompson said during an interview with the Herald Tribune at his Chester home on how he became involved with Rubik's Cubes. "I was like 'hey, I should learn how to do this,' so I went onto YouTube and did a search of how to do it and within a week, I figured out how to do it."
Thompson has completed a 4x4 cube (the highest he has attempted in professional competition) in two minutes and 10 seconds. He has solved a 3x3 cube, one-handed, in 1:01.10.
He is ranked 79th in 3x3 competition, 80th in 4x4 competition and 87th with 2x2 cubes. In the year since he first started in September 2016, he has accumulated Rubik's Cubes of all shapes, sizes and colors.
"It took me three minutes to do it back then," Thompson said. "Now, I've brought it down to around 20 seconds."
As the interview goes along, Thompson works with the various cubes spread out on the table in front of him, using incredible finger dexterity to alter the sides in quick order.
"People do this in a lot of different ways," he said.
Thompson explained that algorithms - basically a specific set of moves in how the patterns are moved around - factor into how the cube is solved. Those algorithms have designations such as F2L (First Two Layers), OLL (Orientation Last Layer) and PLL (Permutation Last Layer).
F2L is the first two layers of a 3x3 cube, which are solved simultaneously rather than individually to save time. OLL involves orienting all last layer corners and edges in one step, while PLL is the final step toward speedsolving the cube.
"(PLL) is where you just move around all the pieces without messing up the yellow," he said. "The algorithms are a big thing in it or otherwise you probably wouldn't be able to do it."
Thompson explained that solving the cubes is less about memorizing different sets of moves and more about understanding the various algorithms.
"I just have it in my muscle memory," he said. "I can even do it with my eyes closed.
"People way better than me, they know every single algorithm. It's crazy."
Thompson has participated in two competitions - St. Boos in St. Louis and Bluegrass Spring 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky - placing 34th in the 3x3 competition in St. Louis and 32nd in the 2x2.
American Jonah Crosby won the 3x3 event in St. Louis with an average time of 7.76 seconds, while China's Yuyang Zhen won the 2x2 with an average time of 2.46 seconds. Crosby also won the 4x4 and 5x5 events.
"It doesn't matter if you're 5 or 99 (years old)," Christal Thompson said. "It's all in the same category."
Thompson has his own YouTube channel, which is in his own name, and features himself solving a variety of cubes and even doing a question and answer session. He is hoping to become sponsored so that he can eventually get paid to test products for companies that make different cubes.
"You have to have a certain amount of subscribers on YouTube, I think it's 1,000 or something," Thompson said. "Then you can submit to be a tester and then they would send you cubes for free to test and do videos on them."