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Saurabh Narain and His Homemade Lego-Based Rubik's Cube Solver (Video)

Roblimo posted about 3 months ago | from the round-and-round-the-little-cube-goes dept.

Hardware 43

Here's another one Tim spotted at Maker Faire Bay Area 2014: A Rubik's Cube solver made by 12-year-old Saurabh Narain. He's in 7th grade -- and started soldering in 2nd grade and messing with Linux in 3rd grade. "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Tim asked. "An engineer..." (not that you couldn't have guessed). There may be faster Rubik's Cube solvers, and there may be slicker-looking ones, but Saurabh's is a lot more elegant, if you define engineering elegance as getting the most accomplished with the fewest possible parts, using the simplest possible design. And both of the fancier Rubik's Cuber solvers linked to in this paragraph were made by adult engineers, while Saurabh is 12. Can you imagine what he'll be like at 18? Or 28? Not that he's alone; there are lots of other engineering prodigies out there. The next 10 or 20 years are going to be amazing if we encourage young people to go into STEM, and even 5% of them are as smart as Saurabh. (Alternate Video Link)

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Ok will anybody else admit it (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47233061)

Am I really the only one who thinks asian people sort of look like aliens? Like UFO riding gray aliens? With the eyes and epicanthic folds and everything? Oh cmon I can't be the only one to see a resemblance. No offense is intended. Just, cmon didn't anybody else notice that?

Re:Ok will anybody else admit it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47233625)

You idiot. Of course they look like the grays since they're gray/ape hybrids. Other human races look different because, gasp, there's more than one alien race out there doing hybrids.

And don't get me started on so-called "Santa Claus"...

Puberty (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47233065)

He will meet a girl and stop caring about building stuff in the basement. There are a lot of child prodigies that don't make it past puberty.

"He's not alone" (2)

Alopex (1973486) | about 3 months ago | (#47233101)

Judging by how awful the job prospects are in STEM relative to the amount of effort being put in, I'm going to hate the world in 10-20 years if the job market becomes even more flooded. Also, I find it incredibly hard to believe that a kid is a competitive engineer at that age, at least based on individual merit. I've seen a lot of smart kids, and then I've seen smart kids who are pushed/enabled by ambitious parents to take more credit than they're due. If I took a shot every time some fifteen year old "scientist" made a significant discovery, I wouldn't be writing frustrated posts on /.

Re:"He's not alone" (2)

wardred (602136) | about 3 months ago | (#47233173)

If he's doing this at 12, and keeps his interest up, I don't think he'll have too much trouble. He also seems to genuinely enjoy what he's doing, rather than going for what he thinks will make money. If I owned an engineering company and he has anything as interesting as this coming out of high school, I'd be thinking about offering up a paid internship to him. (Getting in the news for your Whatever Faire accomplishments puts you well ahead of the pack compared to all the nameless faces out there.)

Re:"He's not alone" (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about 3 months ago | (#47233319)

It isn't that. It is that STEM careers pays so much less than Basketball, Football, and Baseball. That, and talent is well paid for in sports in general, but you can't get well paid unless you invent something and get it to market before someone steals the idea and clones it.

Re:"He's not alone" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47236327)

Well, this dude maybe won't be a great inventor or scientist but he will be at the minimum an ok engineer. He can solve problems. He had a problem: he couldn't solve Rubik cubes. So he read into it. He built a Lego something that could manipulate cubes. Stole a few source code files, modified them without releasing them back to public. Then gone to this faire.
Also he looks asian, big deal.

Anyone else pretty bored by Rubiks Cubes? (0)

Sowelu (713889) | about 3 months ago | (#47233129)

I get it. We can solve it mathematically. We can manipulate them with computers. We can inspect them with optics. We can do this all VERY FAST. That was news 5-10 years ago. There is literally nothing new left in the field.

Re:Anyone else pretty bored by Rubiks Cubes? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 3 months ago | (#47233923)

You're effectively suggesting that fledgling piano players should skip Chopin's Études merely because someone else has already played them.

Re:Anyone else pretty bored by Rubiks Cubes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47235207)

Piano isn't a solved problem. Rubik's Cube is. But, let's pretend that isn't the case. Let's see how your scenario goes. Some kid learns to play the piano, and performs worse than adults (as expected). Why is it news? This isn't news. Not for nerds, not for anyone.

Copy? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47233133)

Not to take away from what this kid did (certainly more than what I did in 7th grade), but it is far from original. I'm not too sure why it is newsworthy.

Similar style of lego rubiks cube solver from 2011 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWkZ51yxvis - and I know similar ones exist from at least that timeframe.

Re:Copy? (1)

aNonnyMouseCowered (2693969) | about 3 months ago | (#47233795)

"Not to take away from what this kid did (certainly more than what I did in 7th grade), but it is far from original. I'm not too sure why it is newsworthy." I'd say it's just as newsworthy as the latest Silicon valley "innovation". Cellphones with rounded corners, anyone?

Completely Unimpressed (2, Informative)

Roger W Moore (538166) | about 3 months ago | (#47233817)

Not to take away from what this kid did (certainly more than what I did in 7th grade), but it is far from original.

What exactly DID he do? It looks like he simply built a MindCuber [mindcuber.com] and added a few tweaks. This is not at all impressive. The reason I recognized it for what it is is that my 10 year old son did almost exactly the same thing: built the MindCuber from the available instructions and ran the code. It looks like this kid added a few tweaks but other than that it is almost identical to the published plans.

Things are getting really bad if a primary school kid who can build a complex Lego kit from instructions is now such a rarity that it's newsworthy. Now if he had designed and built it from scratch including the algorithm to solve the cube then I would be impressed but building a lego robot from available instructions? Really?

Alternate Alternate Video Link (No Dice!) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47233177)

Don't sit through Dice's stupid video ads. Here's the video straight from Narain's YouTube channel.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wm9_RRYTpys

My Son Built One of These a Couple of Years Ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47233207)

He was also 12.
No big deal, maybe we should have flown to the Maker Fair and got ourselves a table

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDk5b3Rx1xE

Not original (2)

nathana (2525) | about 3 months ago | (#47233213)

Not to put this kid down, but that looks awfully similar to the MindCuber design that David Gilday came up with: http://www.mindcuber.com/ [mindcuber.com]

-- Nathan

Re:Not original (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47233241)

He says in the video that he modified Gilday's files.

Re:Not original (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 3 months ago | (#47233637)

If he only modified an existing design, I'm a lot less impressed.

Re:Not original (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47233667)

He's 12. First, even if modified some level of competence has been displayed (likely greater than the average for Slashdot readers). Second, the perseverance to get the job done is valuable within the broader context of society and the economy. He appears to demonstrate a foundation that can be nurtured (not by the typical Slashdot reader, however).

Re:Not original (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 3 months ago | (#47233755)

I'm not saying I'm not impressed, I'm saying I'm a lot less impressed.

Maker not inventor (1)

aNonnyMouseCowered (2693969) | about 3 months ago | (#47233823)

I think you're missing the context. He's showing it off in a Maker's Faire. So it's not as if you're going to see something wildly original.

Re:Not original (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47233261)

He credits the source, twice.

Re:Not original (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47240975)

I'd be more impressed with something he made himself based on some online project he found than something he supposedly came up with himself but was really put together by his dad.

STEM has no future (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47233233)

STEM jobs will be all gone in 10 - 20 years, at least in the US. China and India both graduate hugely more engineers than the US does, and they are getting better at it every day. It is only a matter of time before the US is a third or fourth rate country when it comes to STEM education and expertise.

If the US doesn't get off its duff and start getting more competitive by allowing the best and brightest engineers in the world come work here, it will all be over that much faster. We do not own a monopoly on smart. We have to bring it here if we want to keep it.

Re:STEM has no future (1)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about 3 months ago | (#47233431)

Do we also worry that China and India graduate more lawyers? There's a problem here. We accept that technology makes us so productive that a few people are all that's needed to make a world-wide impact, yet we still expect everyone to work.

So we have lawyers, who are protected by the fact every country or state or province has its own laws... Shouldn't we have one set of laws for the whole planet?

We have one set of physics and electrical rules for the planet and look at the power that enables.

But we'll never see a universal legal system, too much vested interest.

Re:STEM has no future (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47235317)

In other words, remember how in school the physically and socially gifted people were able to dominate the technically gifted 'nerds', who had no way of using their own talents to defend themselves? It's like that in the real world too, up until the day you die. Doesn't matter how much of a genius you are, you're just a bigger cash cow for the MBAs and lawyers to exploit.

Re:STEM has no future (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47233815)

I used to think this as well. Then I started having first-hand experience with "highly qualified" IT people from India.

I don't feel threatened anymore. The people I've worked with spend most of their time trying to talk other people into doing their work, and playing political games to advance their career. This is on top of the cultural issues in India with being unable to convey bad news or the answer "no".

Put another way - when's the last time you heard of a successful outsourcing program?

Re:STEM has no future (1)

vigmeister (1112659) | about 3 months ago | (#47238655)

With outsourcing, you get what you pay for. Most outsourcing programs are cost-cutting measures. Companies go to the cheapest vendor available and expect comparable results. And when that does not happen, they feel comfortable and safe in the fact that "Indian IT personnel are less competent".

When you have a large number of IT graduates, you can expect a lot more incompetent graduates as well. And that is exactly what you get when you go to "IT sweatshops". Successful outsourcing programs would be found amongst the companies that pay the best salaries and rely on the PPP differences to bring the cost advantage. If you can get a selection of the top 10% of the talent in the US for $200,000, I would assume you can get comparable talent (top 1% in India) for $120,000. But this is not a common way to go about outsourcing. Ask those that do and you would be surprised at what is possible.

The issue is not about racial or genetic advantages. It is a question of comparative advantages and available resources between the two countries.

Cheers!

wildly optimistic (1)

sribe (304414) | about 3 months ago | (#47233243)

...and even 5% of them are as smart as Saurabh.

Dream on. I'd bet this kid is at least in the top 0.3%, and maybe higher.

Re:wildly optimistic (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47233361)

Because, with his parents' help, he copied a lego design off the Internet?

Nope. I was playing with lego + motors when I was 12 too, but that was pre-Internet when all we had were BBC Master 128s (which we had to push uphill, both ways etc.).

This kid will still succeed if he wants, but because he knows how to sell himself.

Common API (1)

Herkum01 (592704) | about 3 months ago | (#47233453)

From watching the video he did not come up with the code for this device, but used code someone else wrote. So it is not like he did this from scratch.

Kudos for this kid for completing the project, but it is not quite as impressive as the article made it appear to be.

I can smell the pretension from here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47233559)

It's not "faire", nor "fayre", nor "ye olde fayrie". It's "fair", and you know it is.

Re:I can smell the pretension from here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47234229)

Come on now, that's not fair.

Re:I can smell the pretension from here. (1)

fractoid (1076465) | about 3 months ago | (#47235677)

To be faire, there're a fayre few ways to spell faiyre.

sidiscide setback (1)

epine (68316) | about 3 months ago | (#47233603)

Can you imagine what he'll be like at 18? Or 28?

An open invitation to extrapolate? Whoa daddy that. Fasten your air-bags, ladies and gentlemen.

Will the clever little rug rat grow up to become the William James of maker-space or William James Sidis of faker-disgrace?

Surely he is needed in India... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47233615)

... after all, there are millions living in abject poverty over there. I'm sure us white people can do perfectly well on our own.
Funny how you never see an African 12 year old doing this, isn't it? Anybody got any idea why? Or are we too afraid to tell the truth...

Re:Surely he is needed in India... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47234713)

Because Africans have expensive internet and can't upload lego videos to youtube at a decent price?

so much wrong with this article (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47233719)

"Can you imagine what he'll be like at 18?"

Ability and age tend to not scale linearly. His abilities probably aren't going to change that much from here (he peaked early) and he's not going to amount to much if he can't handle advanced and abstract mathematics.

"...if we encourage young people to go into STEM"

TERRIBLE IDEA! There's already far too much supply for the lack of demand that exists, at least as measured in salaries. As long as we allow desperate, 3rd world coolie laborers to take our technology jobs and thus drive down the salaries, there's no point in anyone bothering to study STEM.

Professor Peter Woit at Columbia comments on the low wages for STEM jobs ( http://www.math.columbia.edu/~... [columbia.edu] ):

"Pollack repeats the claim of a serious shortage of students in STEM fields:

...Last year, the President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology issued an urgent plea for substantial reform if we are to meet the demand for one million more STEM professionals than the United States is currently on track to produce in the next decade....

something which is actually only a shortage of talented people willing to work for low wages."

Re:so much wrong with this article (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47236463)

Read that article you quoted again. It's about women in science you dumbass.

fiRst (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47233953)

Part of a common myth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47235375)

Having an highly advanced intellect at age 12 is no guarantee of being in the same position 12 years later

Encourage STEM? (1)

braindrainbahrain (874202) | about 3 months ago | (#47237735)

I don't think the youngster needs any encouragement to go into STEM. For that matter, I don't think we need to encourage any young people to go into STEM - the field is crowded enough already.
However, for those whose true passion lies in that direction, just stay out of their way.

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