Over the past two months, Colin has dived deep into the world of Rubik's cubes. It began with him buying one 2x2 cube. With a desire to learn how to solve it, he went online and discovered that you have to learn a series of algorithms, and depending on how the cube is mixed, perform a sequence of algorithms that will eventually solve the cube.
Once he mastered the 2x2, it wasn't long before he was saving his money and doing some online shopping comparisons to buy himself a 3x3, followed by speed cubes (faster, better versions), followed by a pyramid and other oddly shaped "cubes." Each one required a new set of algorithms to learn, which he studied and memorized each evening.
The next logical step was then to start timing himself. Without an "official" timer platform used in competitions, he started to design his own using cardboard, duct tape, and a timer on his tablet. This design went through several iterations before it evolved into the one he uses now.
But it didn't end there. His friends started asking how he solved the cubes, so he began to make videos to post online, walking through viewers on how to learn algorithms and when to use each one.
After that he began to develop his own algorithms: ones that were simple enough to memorize, ones that helped you skip steps, or ones that were so repetitive you didn't have to memorize so many (that was for me.)
As I look back on these last two months, it makes me wonder: this could very easily have been a genius hour project. He learned something, he designed something, and he shared it with others. All the elements of project-based learning, and it was completely self-driven.
While I appreciate the science lessons and math tests he had this year in school, I look at this Rubik's cube "project" and really that the learning he has done through it will be longer lasting and more valuable than most of what he did this year. Even if he forgets how to solve a cube down the road, he has learned valuable research, marketing, financial, critical thinking, creative, presentation and communication skills that will be applicable to almost anything real world he has to accomplish.