What can you do in 5.37 seconds that can make you a world champion? Dana Yi (E '21) is the fastest female Rubik’s Cube solver in the world. She’s participated in 62 competitions, and won 25 bronze, 19 silver, and 11 gold medals. She’s traveled all over the world, spending weeks exploring places from the Eastern seaboard to all across Europe, making international friends in the cubing community along the way.
So how did it all start?
Dana recalls finding an unsolved Rubik’s Cube in her basement when she was eight or nine years old. It was broken and all the stickers were peeling off, but her parents gave her a new one that Christmas. She began learning how to solve a 3x3x3 cube on YouTube, and over the course of ten years, she practiced solving more complex cubes until she could solve a 7x7x7 in under 3 minutes.
“It’s a slow process because at the beginning you’re learning just sort of the bare minimum for how to solve it, and then over time there are kinda like shortcuts. So you’re not solving it any differently—you’re just taking shorter steps to do multiple things,” Dana explains, “Especially at the beginning, if you look at my times, it’s a fairly exponential decrease, but then I think around thirteen, twelve, eleven seconds, I sort of hit a block and then it took me probably a year to get over that. Right now my average is around seven [seconds].”
Now as a delegate for the World Cube Association, Dana officiates competitions and helps organizers submit results for different participants. In past years, she has competed in France, Spain, Austria, and Germany, and her upcoming competition will be in Australia.
Dana notes that while participants face off against each other during the conference, some of them have become great friends and even travel buddies. After competitions, they spend time exploring monuments and eating delicious local food. As someone who has learned French for seven years, Dana spent her free time during the World Championships in France talking with locals and absorbing French culture.
“I actually have a lot of international friends and friends from around the country who cube, and we’re close also outside of cubing, but it was just incredible that I was able to meet these people through cubing.”
The individualized nature of cubing taught Dana some important life lessons that she still applies today. While Dana admits she was intensely competitive in high school, she likes to adopt the mentality she learned from cubing when it comes to success in college.
“It’s been such a huge part of my life for such a long time, so I’ve learned a lot of things from it. I think the biggest thing is just like, you’re competing against yourself,” Dana reflects. “At the beginning when I was really slow, I more so enjoyed the experience than trying to get first place.”
Dana has spent a decade of her life cubing, and she went from third–to–last place to the top in her category. However, she cares less about her placement in the competition and more about how the gradual process of self–improvement and diligence led her to develop patience and confidence.
“If you think of the cube as an obstacle, most people are like, ‘oh man, it’s impossible, you can’t do it’ or whatever. But it’s really not.” Dana says, “Don’t be scared of anything that might seem impossible or daunting.”