DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (AP) - When he was 6 years old, Sreeram Venkatarao noticed on Presidents Day a group picture of all the U.S. presidents. Later, as the family went for a ride, he told his parents he could name them all. He did so in exact order of their presidencies.
That’s when his dad, Sreepadraj, knew his son had a special talent.
Sreeram, 14, can solve Rubik’s Cube in 51.68 seconds - blindfolded.
He’s ranked sixth in the nation in his quickness in doing so in a single try by the World Cubing Association.
He’s younger than any of the blindfolded cube-solvers ranked ahead of him, his father said. And that less-than-a-minute time includes the seconds he memorizes the puzzle before putting on the eye mask required in this category of competition.
Sreeram says he doesn’t have a photographic memory. While he does memorize cube puzzles, he also understands the mathematics behind how they work.
In the Delaware Valley Regional Science Fair, he placed first among ninth-graders in the mathematics category. His topic: “Using Group Theory and Combinatorics to Solve the 4x4 Rubik’s Cube and the Pyranminx (tetrahedral) Puzzles.”
He’s studied higher-level math with professors at the University of Pennsylvania and the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai via Skype, his father said, and has aced two online college courses in Java programming and statistics.
At the family’s Doylestown Township home Wednesday, Sreeram’s nimble fingers flew as he showed how he moves the layers of the 3-by-3 cube to match up the colors on all six sides perfectly while his eyes are covered.
“You memorize it first, then you solve it.” If anyone wants to try, there are videos on YouTube to show you how, he added.
Rubik’s Cube was invented by Hungarian Erno Rubik and was introduced by the Ideal Toy Co. in 1980.
Sreeram said the color of the blocks first attracted him.
“It’s so unique,” he said. “I don’t know any puzzle like it.”
He’s been playing with the cubes since he was 8 years old and has quite a collection of them, both the original Rubik design and others from other manufacturers. Not only are there 3-by-3 cubes - where each side has three rows of three movable blocks - but similar cubes that range from 2-by-2 pieces to 12-by-12 pieces. Other puzzles have unusual shapes, from pyramids to balls that have holes for little colorized pebbles to fill.
At competitions, players sometimes rub the cubes in sand so that the pieces won’t stick as they are moved.