Five-year-old Josiah Alvarez stares intently at a robotic arm as it picks up an unsolved Rubik’s cube. Moments earlier, Alvarez placed the toy inside a small chute leading into a glass case where the robot is housed. In what could almost be described as a scene from a sci-fi movie (you know, the one where the robots take over), the robot lifts the cube and examines it before beginning a series of twists and turns to solve the puzzle. It completes the task in 17 moves and celebrates with a little dance (the robot, perhaps). Alvarez giggles as the robot places the cube back into the chute and delivers it to him. It takes the young boy only a few seconds to disarrange the cube and challenge the machine again.
Welcome to Beyond the Rubik’s Cube, a new exhibition that opened at the DoSeum on March 12. This is the DoSeum’s first traveling exhibit since its move from Downtown to its current location on Broadway. The $5 million exhibit was designed by the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, New Jersey, in conjunction with Google and Ernő Rubik, the original inventor of the toy. The Rubik’s Cube was invented in 1974.
“The Rubik’s Cube has been one of the most popular toys around the world for 40 years,” said Vanessa Lacoss Hurd, CEO of the DoSeum. “[The exhibition] fits perfectly with what we do here [at the DoSeum]. We blend science, technology, engineering and math with the arts.”
Along with solving the cube through robotics, the Beyond the Rubik’s Cube exhibit includes a section on the history of puzzles with examples of rare artifacts, a setup where adults and kids can teach a robot how to navigate a maze, interactive touch tables to learn about patterns, shapes, and design, videos to show people the way to solve the Rubik’s Cube (without taking it apart), and even a section where references to the Rubik’s Cube in pop culture can be viewed (remember the Seinfeld episode where George becomes a genius after swearing off sex?).
During the exhibit’s run through May 12, the DoSeum will also host an adults-only night on March 24, cube workshops every Saturday in April, and a world speed cubing competition on May 1. The world record for solving the Rubik’s Cube is 5.25 seconds, so remember to stretch those fingers before trying to top that speed.
“The Rubik’s Cube exhibit has components for all ages, from 3-99,” Hurd added. “It’s a timeless toy. It engages people on so many levels. It’s an art piece, but it gets people to really think, and it’s challenging. People like to have challenges and to learn to solve something. It’s a milestone when you say, ‘I learned to solve the Rubik’s.’”
Admission to the traveling exhibit is free with paid admission to the DoSeum thanks in part to presenting sponsors Zachry Group and Clear Channel Outdoor. The DoSeum is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. For more information visit thedoseum.org.