Lake Norman & Mooresville

Davis Lake teen can beat the Rubik’s Cube, with a little help from himself

Bradley Hlebak can solve any Rubrics cube in less than 2 minutes with the robot he built.
Bradley Hlebak can solve any Rubrics cube in less than 2 minutes with the robot he built. LISA DAIDONE

Bradley Hlebak can solve any Rubik’s Cube in less than two minutes. But he has made himself some help.

A junior at Christ the King Catholic High School in Huntersville, Hlebak was required to have a project for his independent study information technology class.

“I decided I wanted to do something with robotics, but I didn’t know what,” he said. “I was sitting in my room, and I was looking at this shelf I have for Legos. Legos were my pastime. So I thought, ‘why don’t I try to build something with Legos.’”

“I researched it and first was going to design a robot that would solve Sudoku puzzles. I got an EV3 kit that has the controls, wires, motors and sensors for a Lego robot. I figured out that I didn’t have the right pieces to build it (the Sudoku robot), so I changed it to a Rubik’s Cube robot.

“Online, I found instructions for building the robot and downloaded the programing from another site. I started the whole process sometime in October and finished it in February,” Hlebak said.

Hlebak found a program online that solves Rubik’s Cubes and programmed the robot with it.

“After I finished building the robot, I downloaded the program onto it. When I tried to run it, it messed up. The arm that turns and flips the cube messed up. I took the arm off, rebuilt it, and it messed up again. I took the robot home, and me and my dad noticed it (the arm) needed to be extended. So we extended it.” Hlebak demonstrated how he extended the robot arm with his fingers. “Then it worked. I was happy.”

Hlebak continued: “I ran it (the robot) a second time just to test things, and found out the robot wasn’t scanning the corners correctly. After a lot of test runs, I figured out that the robot needed a pencil held up to the Rubik’s Cube. Having the pencil there lets the robot hit the right spot and scan the corners of the cube.”

“I’ve done about 100 test runs. Depending on how many moves it needs, the robot takes under 100 seconds to scan and solve the cube,” Hlebak said.

Hlebak said he “did this project because I’ve always liked Legos. Growing up, Legos were my toy. Robotics is always cool. So I put the two things together.”

His teacher, Technology Coordinator Mary Kay Connery, said she was more Hlebak’s mentor than his teacher in this class. “Bradley assumed a complete leadership role with this project,” she said. “He took the initiative to research what he wanted to do, acquire the needed materials, and problem-solve when it was required. I’m very proud of both him and his final product.”

Besides playing with Legos and making robots, Hlebak swims with Swim MAC. “I swim the butterfly and freestyle. At regionals, I placed third for the 100 butterfly, and at states eighth for the 100 butterfly.”

Hlebak is 16 and lives in Davis Lake. In college, he plans to major in marine biology and also wants to continue his swimming. “I’m thinking about UNC Wilmington,” he said. “I’m also looking at schools in Florida and on the coast,” he said.

Lisa Daidone is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Lisa? Email her at ldaidone@hotmail.com.

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