Making Patterns with Rubik's Cube
Areas of Science 
Pure Mathematics 
Difficulty  
Time Required  Long (24 weeks) 
Prerequisites  To do this project you should enjoy solving puzzles and thinking in three dimensions. This project requires starting with Rubik's Cube in the solved position, so you will need to know how to solve the puzzle in order to do this project. 
Material Availability  Readily available 
Cost  Very Low (under $20) 
Safety  No issues 
Abstract
This project challenges you to figure out how to make geometric patterns with Rubik's Cube. Leaving your cube in one of these positions makes it much more tempting to pick it up and 'fix' it. Can you figure out how to make a checkerboard, or a cubewithinacube? Can you make only the center piece a different color from the rest? Can you figure out how to solve the cube from these positions?Objective
The goal of this project is to figure out how to make patterns with Rubik's Cube.Share your story with Science Buddies!
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Introduction
Rubik's cube is an interesting 3dimensional puzzle that challenges your spatial imagination and memory. Usually, the goal is to arrange the cube so that each side is a solid color, as shown in Figure 1. However, in this project, you'll be trying to figure out ways of making geometrical patterns with Rubik's Cube. Before we get to the patterns, we'll introduce some notation for referring to the different sides, and show you how the cube is put together.
Figure 1. Diagram of a solved Rubik's cube. The six sides are named in pairs—updown, frontback, and leftright. The up (U), front (F), and right (R) sides are visible. The remaining sides—left (L), back (B), and down (D)—are shown by the projected images.
Figure 1 also shows the labels we will be using when referring to sides of the cube. The six sides are named in pairs—updown, frontback, and leftright. To refer to a specific side, we'll use the oneletter abbreviations shown in Figure 1 (U, D, F, B, L, R).
The cube is built in such a way that each side, row, and column can rotate (see Figure 2). You can purchase the cube with many different color patterns. The color pattern we will be using has the following pairs of colors on opposite sides: white and yellow,
 red and orange,
 blue and green.
Figure 2. Diagram of the core of a Rubik's cube. The core enables each side, row, and column of the cube to rotate.
Before we present the patterns, we need to introduce some more terminology, so that we can easily refer to individual pieces on the cube. Rubik's cube is made of three different types of pieces. We will refer to them as center, corner, and edge pieces. The puzzle has six center pieces, one in the middle of each face. Each center piece has only one visible face. There are eight corner pieces on the puzzle. Each corner piece has three visible faces. The remaining twelve pieces are edge pieces, occupying the middle position along each edge of the cube. Each edge piece has two visible faces.
Center Piece  Corner Piece  Edge Piece  
location  
# in entire cube  6  8  12 
visible faces  1  3  2 
For each step in solving the cube, specific sequences of moves come in handy. In order to summarize the move sequences efficiently, we will use a shorthand notation common among cubers. The shorthand notation is easy to learn. There are just three rules you need to know.
 When a side is rotated clockwise one quarter turn, the shorthand notation for the move is simply the letter of the side. For example, if you're supposed to rotate the right side one quarter turn clockwise, the shorthand would be R.
 When a side is rotated counterclockwise one quarter turn, the shorthand notation for the move is the letter + an apostrophe ('). For example, if you're supposed to rotate the right side counterclockwise one quarter turn, the shorthand would be R'.
 When a side is rotated twice (direction does not matter in this case), the shorthand notation for the move is the letter + 2. For example, if you're supposed to rotate the front side twice, the shorthand would be F2.
A Simple Pattern: Checkerboard with Colors from Opposite Sides
To get started, we recommend looking into the simple checkerboard pattern. You can do this with the link to "Pretty Rubik's Cube patterns with algorithms" in the Bibliography. Scroll down that page to find the animation for the checkerboard pattern. Now, see if you can find out how to solve the remaining patterns listed on your own, without using online help.
Another Simple Pattern: Four Center Spots
This pattern can be generated from the solved cube in 12 quarterturn moves (or 8 moves, if you count halfturns of a face as a single move).
Figure 3. Four center spots pattern.
Another Simple Pattern: Six Center Spots
This pattern can be generated from the solved cube in 8 moves.
Figure 4. Six center spots pattern.
Another Simple Pattern: Six T's
This pattern can be generated from the solved cube in 14 quarterturn moves (or 9 moves if you count halfturns of a face as single move).
Figure 5. Six T's pattern.
A More Challenging Pattern: Cross Pattern
This pattern can be generated from the solved cube in 16 quarterturn moves (or 11 moves if you count halfturns of a face as single move).
Figure 6. Cross pattern.
A Challenging Pattern: Cube in Cube
This pattern can be generated from the solved cube in 18 quarterturn moves (or 15 moves if you count halfturns of a face as single move).
Figure 7. Cube in cube pattern.
A Challenging Pattern: Cube in Cube in Cube
This pattern can be generated from the solved cube in 20 quarterturn moves (or 17 moves if you count halfturns of a face as single move).
Figure 8. Cube in cube in cube pattern.
A Challenging Pattern: Stripes
This pattern can be generated from the solved cube in 20 quarterturn moves (or 17 moves if you count halfturns of a face as single move).
Figure 9. Stripes pattern.
A Challenging Pattern: Advanced Checkerboard
This pattern can be generated from the solved cube in 20 quarterturn moves (or 16 moves if you count halfturns of a face as single move).
Figure 10. Advanced checkerboard pattern.
Terms and Concepts
To do this project, you should do research that enables you to understand the following terms and concepts: Rubik's cube:
 How it moves
 Terminology
 Corner pieces (8)
 Edge pieces (12)
 Center pieces (aka side pieces, 6)
Questions
 How many visible faces does an edge piece have? A center piece? A corner piece?
 Does the order of the pairs of moves matter in creating the checkerboard pattern?
Bibliography
 Here are some ways to solve the cube, with stepbystep instructions. These webpages will teach you move sequences that produce specific rearrangements of the cube. They may help you to devise strategies for producing geometric patterns with Rubik's Cube:
 Beust, C., 2003. A Rubik's Cube Solution That Is Easy to Memorize,. Retrieved January 3, 2007.
 Lee, J., n.d. Beginner Solution to the Rubik's Cube,. Retrieved April 29, 2009.
 Petrus, L. 1997. Solving Rubik's Cube for Speed,. Retrieved January 3, 2007.
 Youcandothecube.com. (n.d.). You CAN Do the Rubik's Cube. Retrieved November 23, 2010.
 Ferenc, D. (n.d.). Pretty Rubik's Cube patterns with algorithms. Retrieved March 26, 2014.
Materials and Equipment
To do this experiment you will need the following materials and equipment: Rubik's cube
Experimental Procedure
 Study the geometric Rubik's Cube patterns presented in the Introduction (Figures 3–10). Remember that each pattern uses the solved cube as the starting point. See how many of the patterns you can figure out how to make on your own.
 Asking yourself the following questions may help you as you try to figure out how to generate the patterns:
 Which pieces have moved from the original configuration?
 Which pieces have stayed the same?
 For the pieces that have moved, did they move from an opposite side or an adjacent one?
 How many moves does it take to create each pattern?
If you like this project, you might enjoy exploring these related careers:
Variations
 For a more basic project using Rubik's Cube, see the Science Buddies project What's the Fastest Way to Solve Rubik's Cube?
 For an advanced Rubik's cube experiment, see the Science Buddies project Devising an Algorithm for Solving Rubik's Cube.
 Advanced. If you have skills in computer programming, learn how to use the Java applet to demonstrate how your algorithm works. The Java applet used to illustrate the moves in this project was written by Karl Hšrnell, Lars Petrus, and Matthew Smith. It can be obtained from: http://lar5.com/cube/downloads.html.
 Design an experiment to find out if experienced cube solvers are faster at solving the puzzle from one of the pattern positions or from a random position.
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