Tag Archive | "Ross School"

Ross School in East Hampton Unveils New Marine Science Program

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Students from the Ross School working aboard a SoMAS research vessel.

Students from the Ross School working aboard a SoMAS research vessel.

By Tessa Raebeck

One scientist is looking at the medical applications of 3D printing technology, another is working on a Hydrogen-powered fuel cell and a third is developing an inexpensive way to have a prosthetic limb that responds to brain control. What do the three scientists have in common? They’re all in high school.

The projects are just some examples of independent research taking place in the Innovation Lab at the Ross School. Now in its second year, the program is adding marine science to its curriculum, which already includes diverse subjects like engineering, computer programming, woodworking, metalworking and welding.

“The Innovation Lab is a unique program that uses applied science and education to meet current problems of our society,” explained Paul Flagg, a teacher at Ross who was brought in to lead the marine science program. “So we are going to be working locally, regionally and globally in our efforts.”

In addition to the Ross School core curriculum, students in the Innovation Lab spend an extra hour at school each day working on their independent projects, which they choose and design themselves.

“The students are given a lot of latitude to select a project that they’re interested in,” Dr. David Morgan, the director of the lab, said. “What I tell students is if they’re not looking forward all day to when the Innovation Lab time comes around and they get to work on their project, then they probably chose the wrong project.”

“I really want the students all working on something they’re passionate about,” he added, “that is the kind of thing they would be doing anyway if they weren’t in school. Those are the kinds of students we’re looking for and the kinds of projects we try to steer them towards.”

Drawing on local resources and global ideas, the marine science program aims to broaden the Innovation Lab past engineering-type sciences to include life sciences and allows students to choose their focus from a large and diverse field.

“I think of the marine science program as more broadly than just fishing and plankton,” said Dr. Morgan. “It’s about global environmental issues. It’s about sustainability.”

“There’s room for students,” he added, “who are interested in genetics. There’s room there for students who are interested in resource management, fisheries, oceanography, computer modeling of global climate change…it’s a pretty big field.”

Flagg, who has an extensive background in fisheries and marine biology, designed the new program’s first course, “The Earth and its Oceans,” which is focused on physical oceanography and marine theology, currently in the fourth of 12 weeks.

Students are building a ROV (remote operated vehicle), “basically a robotic submarine,” said Dr. Morgan, and developing data collection packages to test the water for things like salinity and dissolved oxygen content.

In all projects, students are encouraged to look at problems in an interdisciplinary fashion.

Following the course, 22 students and five faculty members will travel to Mo’orea, a remote island in French Polynesia, for 20 days during the Ross School’s midwinter term.

In collaboration with National Geographic and the Smithsonian Institute, they will conduct field research for a bio-code project at University of California at Berkeley’s Richard Gump Research Station.

“It’s an inventory of all life that exists” in Mo’orea, said Flagg. “We’re working on that inventory, including the genetic identity of each species, and so far the project has been going for five years and we’re coming to support it.”

Dr. Morgan said such trips are going to be an important part of the program.

“Getting students working not just in our local waters,” he said, “but getting them to experience environments that they might not otherwise get a chance to experience.”

Some students, he said, are conducting research on using the oceans to generate power through wave and tidal power generation or generating electricity from the temperature difference between the surface water and water 100 meters below.

“[We are] looking at the oceans as a source of energy and not just a place that we pull things out of to eat,” said Dr. Morgan, adding that the Ross School encourages students to think about global environmental impact in all their projects and “how this technology might be able to help mitigate things like environmental effects of human existence on this planet.”

The Ross School is offering three full tuition merit-based scholarships, including stipends and support for all four years, for marine science students from the local community.

Two scholarships have already been awarded to Evi Kaasik Saunders and Liam Cummings, but one is still available. To apply for the remaining scholarship, visit ross.org/apply or email admissions@ross.org.

“We feel committed,” Flagg said, “to supporting the community with research and students that are interested and would like to be involved in matters of local concern — such as the effects of sea-level change, effects of mismanagement of fisheries — so we think there’s a lot of opportunity for high-level participation and support of local resource management in the marine environment.”

Although students are doing work on a global scale, the program is committed to the local community.

“We feel that we’re part of a community that has a long relationship and dependence on the ocean for its survival,” said Flagg.


National 9/11 Flag Visit

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By Candace Sindelman


The National 9/11 Flag has been almost everywhere. During its historical restoration tour it has been to all 50 states from the top of Mount Rushmore to the Crazy Horse monument. Now the 20’ x 30’ foot flag, transported in its very own triangular bag, will make its appearance in Sag Harbor where it will be displayed to honor those participating in the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Game this Saturday.

The flag originally flew on 90 West Street in New York City, until the neighboring World Trade Center was destroyed in the attacks of 9/11. It was eventually removed when Charlie Vitchers, the construction superintendent for the clean up at Ground Zero ordered a crew up the scaffolding to rescue the remains of the tattered American Flag. Vitchers’ original plan was to have the flag be nobly retired as tradition with any American flag that has been tattered. However, in 2008, Vitchers still had pieces of the American flag in a plastic bag at his home in Pennsylvania.

That same year, on the anniversary of 9/11 the organization New York Says Thank You travelled to Greensburg, Kansas to aid in rebuilding after a deadly tornado, Vitchers had brought the remains of the flag with him. The condition was poor; approximately 40 percent of the flag was missing. All the ladies from the Senior Citizen Center in Greensburg, Kansas stitched the flag back together. Where there was no original material the volunteers took American flags that had also survived the tornados and sewed them to the existing flag. Those flags were eventually returned to the people of Greensburg as the restoration project continued toward 2011 and were instead replaced by retired flags from several states as well as special patches to honor disaster victims and heroes.

Over 20,000 people from all over the country have placed at least one stitch on the flag aiding in its restoration including the family of Martin Luther King, Jr., World War II veterans, soldiers and schoolchildren who survived the shooting at Fort Hood, 20 members of Congress, and thousands of everyday heroes in the service.

Denny Deters, who is in charge of Restoration and Protocol for the National 9/11 Flag is confident that the flag has exceeded the 50,000 stitches they had approximated it would have by the end of its tour. Adding to its history, the flag consists of 90 patches, one of which is a remnant of the flag that cradled Abraham Lincoln’s head when he was shot at Ford’s Theater as well as another patch that includes several threads from the original Star Spangled Banner.

Phil Ingram, one of the honored guards and volunteers for the flag is proud to be a part of the activities and the New York Says Thank You Foundation, which is an organization that serves, as he put it, “as healing for us as a country, but also as a way of giving back and saying thank you to everyone that has helped New York” (after 9/11). “(The National 9/11 Flag) has been to amazing places,” he said.

The National 9/11 Flag’s final destination is the World Trade Center, where it will become part of a permanent collection at the National 9/11 Memorial Museum.

On Friday the National 9/11 Flag will be displayed at the Ross School for public viewing from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Innovation Lab to Immerse Students in Science

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By Claire Walla

The jobs of tomorrow might not be here today, but a new program at the Ross School is aiming to help high school students prepare for them.

That’s the concept behind the school’s new science academy, Innovation Lab @Ross, which was announced this month and is now accepting applications for the coming academic year.

According to David Morgan, who is returning to Ross after 10 years teaching undergraduate science courses at The New School, the program is being developed for those students who have already demonstrated an early passion for scientific innovation. Primary fields of study will include mathematics, engineering, media and technology; though within those realms Morgan said instruction and lab work will ultimately be attuned to students’ particular interests.

“The idea is that students will come with an interest in one of these fields,” he said. They might not be absolutely sure precisely what they want to pursue, he added, “but they’ve identified that this [path] is what they want.”

Ross has also announced a scholarship for local students hoping to be part of the Innovation Lab.  The deadline for the award is Tuesday, June 12, and information can be found at www.ross.org/scholarship.

Like the Ross tennis academy, the innovation lab students will take the same core courses as students in the regular school for the first half of the day. During the second half of the day, however, instead of playing tennis, students in the Innovation Lab will have hours to devote to science, focusing on “in-depth projects, independent research and labs that are two- to three-hour blocks,” Morgan explained.

“There’s a huge desire in today’s world for students to be connected to these fields,” added Patty Lein, Ross’ Director of Academics and Professional Development (also former chair of the science department). “A lot of professors are jazzed about the idea of bringing that innovative thinking into Ross; these students will be leaders in the field at some point.”

Morgan further impressed that the Innovation Lab would not only foster an environment where scientific exploration would be supported, it would give students a certain business sense, teaching them how to bring their ideas into the marketplace. The idea is for students to learn how to write grants, and even apply for science grants during their time at Ross.

“What we need to do is give students the skills to do independent research and be able to work with a mentor,” Morgan explained.

The Innovation Lab will tap into a list of well-established science researchers who will be available to consult with students throughout their time at Ross. These mentors include professors Morgan himself already has working relationships with, as well as professors from around the world.

These resources include mathematics professor Dr. Ralph Abraham of the University of California — Santa Cruz; professor of neuroscience Dr. Antonio Damasio of the University of Southern California; Dr. Kurt W. Fischer of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, mathematics professor Dr. Victor Katz of the University of the District of Columbia; and researcher Dr. Hideaki Koizumi of Tokyo, Japan, among others.

Of course, local scientists, like famed environmentalist Carl Safina, have agreed to participate on a consulting basis as well.

Ross is currently accepting ninth and tenth grade applicants ($49,850 base fee for day students, $66,150 for boarding students) with what both Morgan and Lein referred to as a demonstrated passion for science.

“The most important thing is an indication that the student is passionate and curious about something,” Morgan said. Although a track record of high achievement and good test scores will be considered as well, Morgan emphasized, “We want students whose eyes light up when they find out that they’ll get to spend part of their day with free time [to research, or conduct lab work].”

Morgan said the focus of the program is still evolving, and will continue to morph based on students’ interests. However, he anticipates putting a lot of energy into robotics and engineering, as well as 3D design and fabrication. (The school will be purchasing a 3D printer and scanner, which will allow students to create a digital prototype of a part — a robot claw, for instance — and the “printer” will essentially create it.)

“It’s a pioneering program,” Lein continued. “We want the voice of the first student body to help design the program’s next steps.”

Morgan agreed, adding that he’s excited to see how the program evolves over time.

“My greatest hope is that three years from now there will be students doing what I can’t even imagine now,” he stated. “My job is to make sure I can make that possible.”

Dr. Gregg Maloberti

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The interim head of the Ross School who will officially take over for current Head of School Michele Claeys when she leaves the position this July.

You’ve been in the admissions department at various private schools for many years, currently serving as dean of admissions and financial aid at Lawrenceville School in New Jersey. How easily do you see yourself transitioning into the role of interim head of school at Ross?

The things I did [as dean of admissions] — like changing the student composition and creating new summer programs to make it easier for new kids to transition into the school — those were systemic changes. I did these things in concert with lots of different issues, all really with the mind that I would eventually like to run a school one day.

What’s one of the challenges you think a head of school faces these days?

Understanding what kind of curriculum is needed today. If you want to train doctors, lawyers and businessmen, then you know what to do. But what if we’re talking about graduating the people who are going to invent the next version of the Internet, or — who knows — interplanetary travel? You’re going to need a different kind of education, one that’s not so focused on set boundaries.

What’s one specific task you’ll have to tackle when you officially come onboard at Ross in July?

The school is now 20 years old, so one of the first things we’ll be doing is looking at the next decade, hopefully the next 100 years. It’s time to think about how the school can become sustainable over time.

The second priority is the boarding program. It’s brand new, so we’re looking to figure out how that boarding program can grow.

With the whole world at your fingertips, where do you even begin?

Strategically, we look at areas around the world that have an interest in boarding schools and have elementary and middle schools that can [prepare] kids leaving them [for boarding school abroad].

I know there are currently a lot of students from China. Do you try to balance where the students come from?

There is a disproportionate number of students at Ross from China. But, for one thing, Ross has just introduced a Mandarin program K-12, so it was the school’s initiative to get some kids who speak Mandarin on the campus. The other thing is that China is the newest big market for boarding schools.

You’ve alluded to the fact that a lot of boarding schools are taking in a lot of Chinese students. But, are they doing more than just filling their beds? A lot of them aren’t. Because Ross has a mission to create a sense of globalism, Chinese history is an active part of the academic curriculum.

Just this February, 100 kids from Ross actually went to China for M-terms.

At the end of the school year you’ll officially make the move from New Jersey to Long Island. Are you excited to move to the East End?

Thrilled! I don’t want to get on that bandwagon of dissing New Jersey, but… I’m interested in being in a location that’s naturally beautiful [laughs]. The clean air, the sunshine — it’s paradise!

Cosmos Seek Hat-Trick

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by Andrew Rudansky

At the Ross School in East Hampton, tennis is king.

With their six court Tennis Center located on the school’s Upper Campus, and top tier international coaching staff, Ross has separated themselves on the East End as the dominant force in Section XI tennis.

Nothing exemplifies this success in tennis more than the boys varsity team, which is the two-time defending League VII champions, having gone undefeated in league play in both 2010 and 2011.

In both those years, Ross had finished in the finals in the Suffolk County tournament, both times losing out to powerhouse Half Hollow Hills East.

This year Ross is off to another hot start, starting the season with a league record of 5-1. The one loss came at the hands of Southampton in a close 4-3 decision on April 2. It was Ross’ first loss in over 29 league games.

Ross is currently locked in a three-way tie for first place with the Westhampton Hurricanes and the Southampton Mariners.

Ross is led by senior Felipe Reis, the number one singles player on the team. Last year Reis made it to the state quarter finals in doubles, and this year he is off to a great 6-0 start to the season.

“[Reis] is definitely the strongest player,” said coach Vinicius Carmo. “He is strong mentally, even if he is down he is always fighting.”

Junior Ben Okin, the number two singles player, currently holds a record of 3-3 this season. Carmo said the tall junior has been using a big forehand shot and side-to-side ball placement to outmuscle his opponents.

Seventh graders Jonas Linnman, 5-1, and Mike Petersen, 4-2, occupy the third and fourth singles spots on the roster.

Carmo said that two teams have been fighting it out for the first doubles spot on the roster. Juniors Jack Brinkley-Cook and Louis Caiola are currently slotted in at number one, however the team of junior Pedro Zagury and freshman Harrison Rowen are close behind.

Freshmen Will Greenberg and Jordan Schwimmer occupy the third doubles team spot.

“The doubles teams have been very strong. I feel that we have a solid team, they can all play,” said Carmo.

Most recently Ross defeated William Floyd 6-1 on Wednesday, April 4. Reis, Linnman, Petersen, as well as the teams of Rowen/Zagury and Brinkley-Cook/Caiola won their matches in two sets.

While the team is still racking up League VII wins, the recent addition of the The Ross School Tennis Academy to the school could ultimately threaten Ross’ dominance in interscholastic tennis competition.

The Academy, which opened up in the fall of 2011 is a specialized training program at the school dedicated to intensive tennis training.

This year six Ross students were named ineligible for the Section XI Spring 2012 tennis season by the New York Public High School Athletic Association (NYPHSAA) for their involvement with the newly formed Academy.

Carmo said he was frustrated by the ineligibility of his students.

“Section XI, they said that it wasn’t fair because of the recruiting. We try to advertise, of course, because it is a private school; but we don’t say come and play for Ross. We don’t give athletic scholarships. To me that is not recruiting,” said Carmo.

The next home match for Ross will be on Wednesday, April 18 at 4:30 p.m. when they host Eastport/ South Manor (1-4).

Track Sends Six to Championships

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The Ross/Pierson Track & Field squad ended their 2010 season with six athletes competing in the Division III Championships on Tuesday May 25 at Connetquot High School.

Pierson’s Stephen Early, who had qualified for the pentathlon, was scratched from that race so he could be a member of the 400 meter relay team. Also on the relay team were Charles McIntosh and Brandon Zeidner from Ross and Oliver Lauro from Pierson. The team ran a time of 47.64 seconds, which was not their best time and did not qualify them for the final.

Charles McIntosh also competed in the 100-meter dash, finishing with a time of 11.83 seconds. McIntosh missed qualification for the final by nine-hundredths of a second.

Christian Gonzalez of Pierson ran the 400-meter dash in 58.33 seconds, also narrowly missing qualification for the final.

Despite the fact none of their competing athletes qualified for further rounds, this is the first time that Ross/Pierson has had this many athletes competing in the championship. With quite a few returning athletes, next season looks promising.

“Hopefully, we will continue to improve and go further in this meet and beyond,” said coach Jim Kinnier.

Ross School Gives Sports Awards


The Ross School Spring Sports Awards were held on May 26 in the Great Hall of the Center for Well-Being. Students in tennis, softball, baseball, lacrosse and track received awards for their dedication to their sport, leadership and greatest improvement. In JV boys tennis, Most Valuable Player (MVP) went to Harrison Rowen; Most Improved Player (MIP) went to Ben Stein and the Coach’s Award went to Will Greenberg. In boys varsity tennis, MVP went to Richard Sipala, MIP went to Jack Brinkley-Cook and the Coach’s Award went to Henry Lee. The three players on the girls varsity softball team who received awards were Emma Betuel, who was named MVP; Alex Toscano, who was named MIP, and Sydney Dratel who was given the Coach’s Award. Baseball coach Mark Foard handed out baseballs to the seniors with their names on them on the JV baseball team and named Billy Schutt MVP, Jason Ng MIP, and he gave the Coach’s Award to Jin Haeng Lee. On the JV boys lacrosse team, Christian Rice was named MVP, Nicklas Muster was named MIP, and Nichlas Keszler and Michael Mundy each received the Coach’s Award. Finally, on the co-ed Ross/Pierson track team, MVP went to Pierson student Stephen Early, MIP went to Ross student Charles McIntosh and the Coach’s Award went to Brandon Zeidner.

Killer Bees Bust Into County Playoffs

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By Benito Vila

When the final buzzer sounded Friday there was a tremendous amount of relief on the Bridgehampton side, the 85-52 score giving the Killer Bees a seventh win and setting up a Class D title game re-match with Greenport. That season-defining game is set for Saturday, February 20 at noon at Longwood High School.

The Porters have won the last four county championships, all-time Long Island boys’ scoring record holder Ryan Creighton taking Greenport to the state tournament each time. With Creighton off playing college ball at Franklin Pierce in New Hampshire, the Killer Bees are poised to break through against the Porters.

The two teams have met twice this year, Greenport winning both, 72-42 in Bridgehampton in December and 54-47 just two weeks ago. The most recent match-up saw the Killer Bees close to within a bucket before a missed shot and a put-back basket pushed the Porters ahead for good.

In December, Bridgehampton coach Carl Johnson described his team’s ability to compete with Greenport to be the key to how people remember the season, saying, “We win that last one there and everyone will come home happy.”

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The King Bees

In nailing down the berth in the title game Friday, Bridgehampton’s Ainsley Wyche, Canaan Campbell and Cesar Banados tossed in a collective 61 points. Wyche led the way with 34, Campbell adding 14 and Banados 13.

As those point totals suggest, those wearing yellow and black had plenty to cheer as the game got underway. The home crowd saw the Killer Bees break out slowly to hold a slim 16-11 lead after the first quarter. In the second quarter the Bridgehampton boys turned on their game, going on a 30-9 run in the second quarter to finish the half up 46-20. That trend continued in the third, the Killer Bees cruising the rest of the way and, in celebrating their playoff berth, forgetting they started 0-2.

The week was not without its challenges for the Bridgehampton team, a trip to Stony Brook Monday ending in a long ride home, the Bears running their mark to 11-2 by defending their home court 66-25. The Killer Bees’ scoring trio mustered just 18 on Monday, Wyche coming away with ten, Banados five and Campbell three.

If the weather permits, the 7-6 Killer Bees are due to close out their regular season today, the 2-11 Pierson Whalers expected in for a 5 p.m. tip-off.

Ravens Up, Bees Down

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By Benito Vila

The first game is always a long time coming for players and coaches alike. Then, after so many practices and much scrimmaging, the outcome either puts a team in first place or last.

For the Ross varsity basketball team, Tuesday’s league opener at Smithtown Christian meant leaving school early for a long ride west. Hours later, the Ravens were looking forward to hopping back on the bus to head east having out-dueled the Crusaders, 50-44.

Meanwhile, the way back from Southold was no joy for the Bridgehampton varsity, the Killer Bees seeing the Settlers cut off their comeback in a 41-34 loss.

As the League VIII results came in Tuesday, Ross found itself at the top of the league with Shelter Island and Southold while Bridgehampton was sharing the cellar with Pierson and Smithtown Christian with nowhere to go but up.

Today, Ross hosts Shelter Island at 6:15 p.m., one of those two schools falling towards the middle of the pack. And the Bridgehampton boys are back in their gym, popularly known as “The Hive,” preparing for Tuesday’s match-up with Class D rival Greenport.

Just One of Those Games

The loss to Southold was something Killer Bees coach Carl Johnson called, “just one of those games. We had problems with turnovers that gave Southold too many chances.”

Looking at what he liked from his team, Coach Johnson noted, “I knew we were up against a good team. They have eight seniors that have been together for a while and have a good chemistry. Still we rebounded well and stayed within striking distance when nothing else was working.”

Coach Johnson also had an appreciation for how the game was played. “From the start every possession was meaningful. There was a playoff atmosphere and the refs let the boys play. That was good for everybody.”

Falling behind 10, 24-14, at the half, the Killer Bees made it a six-point game, 27-21, at the end of the third. Staying within five with just over a minute remaining, the Bridgehampton boys saw an offensive breakdown turn into an easy basket at the other end to stall their charge.

 “We couldn’t sustain it. Our pressure kept us in it but we worked so hard to do that, that when it came down to it, we had nothing,” said Coach Johnson.

Also working against the Killer Bees was the inability of standout guard Ainsley Wyche to get into an offensive flow. Wyche, who for two years running has led Bridgehampton in scoring, was blanked for three quarters, coming home with just six points. Cesar Banados, banging bodies down low, picked up points in the paint and topped the Killer Bees with 13.

Ravens Take Control

Ross ripped out to a quick start Tuesday, taking a 17-8 lead after the first period and building a 34-19 advantage at the half. Those 15 points came in handy later when the Crusaders cut off the Ravens’ attack and launched one of their own to close to within three.

Ravens coach Kelly McKee liked what he saw as his team posted its first win of the season, but admitted “we kind of just hung on in the second half.”

Ross center Charles McIntosh, the only senior on the team, proved to be the spark for much of the early offense creating turnovers on defense and delivering the ball to sophomore point guard Liam Chaskey. Chaskey scored 19 to lead his team, while junior forward Brendan Pettaway added 10.

Looking ahead to Shelter Island, Coach McKie said, “I expect they’ll be tough. This could be their year. They have a lot of senior starters that are playing hard for one another.” 

Ross Freshman’s a Rubik’s Cube Whiz

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By day Gavin Nelson appears to be an average high school freshman.

But put a Rubik’s Cube in his hands and Nelson becomes a phenom.

Nelson’s fingers move frenetically as he manipulates the cube. Two red blocks swirl into a glimpse of blue followed by a haze of green, with flashes of orange and white. The clicking sounds of the small squares snapping into place offer an audible sign of a master at work.

Fifteen seconds later, Nelson is done. He sets the cube down, each side restored to its distinctive field of color.

Nelson discovered his passion for “cubing,” a term coined by fans of solving Rubik’s Cube and related puzzles, at age 13 when he first unlocked the secret of the cube that has stumped millions since it was invented in 1974 by Hungarian sculptor and professor Ernö Rubik.

In the past three decades, the Rubik’s Cube has gained the reputation of a toy understood only by mathematical geniuses, beyond the grasp of the layman. For most people, that seems to be the case. They’ve been available in this country since 1980 and many American households have at least one scrambled Rubik’s Cube forgotten in a closet or attic, abandoned after a frustrated and ill fated attempt to solve the puzzle.

Nelson first stumbled upon a Rubik’s Cube in the basement of his family’s home. He immediately went online and discovered a treasure trove of tried and true methods for solving the puzzle. What astonished Nelson in his research was the simplicity of the cube.

Most people, explained Nelson’s twin sister, Kate, who is also adept at the cube and teaches others how to master it, focus on completing one side of color first — but this is often their undoing.

The “cuber,” explained Gavin Nelson, should break the puzzle down into manageable parts, and instead solve layers of color until the puzzle is complete. And although a knack for math is useful in solving the Rubik’s Cube, an ability to recognize sequences of visual patterns is far more helpful.

“There is quite a bit of memorization, but its visual memorization. I try to memorize patterns,” explained Nelson at his Noyac home. After years of scrambling and solving the Rubik’s Cube, Nelson has created a mental filing cabinet of corresponding moves for almost every color combination of pieces he encounters while working the puzzle. This has helped him lower his average solving time through the years. His fingers, too, have learned the drill, working in concert with one another while also seemingly independently — a flick of a pinkie is often all it takes to complete a section while his other hand is already focused on a different part of the cube. Another trick of the trade Nelson has picked up is coating his cubes with a silicone spray, which allows the blocks to turn more easily.

Nelson’s skill at the cube has taken him to competitions throughout the U.S. hosted mainly by the World Cube Association. Nelson particularly excels at three different events: solving the cube blindfolded, completing the puzzle with just one hand, and the megaminx — a type of “super Rubik’s” with 12 faces and 11 pieces per side.

“I went to my first competition in November of 7th grade. I was 13 and one of the youngest people doing it,” remembered Nelson. “There are a few tables up front where you compete. There are timers and the judge calls you up [to the stage]. You bring your cube and they scramble it for you. You have fiften seconds to look at it before they start the time.”

At the 2009 U.S. national championships, Nelson placed fifth in the final round of the megaminx challenge and nabbed 17th place in the first round of the blindfold event. When solving the cube with his eyes covered, contestants are first given the opportunity to study the scrambled cube before the blindfold is administered. When Nelson first competed with the Rubik’s Cube, his time hovered around two minutes — but his average is now in the 15-second range. In competition, Nelson’s best score was clocked at 13 seconds.

During competition, Nelson isn’t going toe to toe with teenaged players — all competitors are placed into the same group regardless of age. Most cubers, explains Nelson, are between 18 to 20-years-old, though the pack is peppered with a few 40 to 50-year-olds, and the players often aren’t the stereotypical math whiz.

Nelson’s mother, Christine, noted that unlike many sports, the intense competitive aspect of the matches rarely spills over into the interpersonal relationships between the players.

“It is 99 percent guys competing and there is huge camaraderie,” remarked Christine. “[In the off hours] they teach each other new moves and tricks. They become ‘cubing’ buddies and Nelson is in constant contact with them.”

She added that two years ago she couldn’t have imagined becoming a “cubing” mother and traveling to at least 10 competitions a year. But her son, noted Christine, has finally found a passion.

“He played soccer. He played the cello. But he became passionate about the ‘cubing.’ It is neat to see something that he was in love with doing,” said Christine. “It opened up a whole new group of long distance friends who are excellent role models for him.”

An unlikely byproduct of Nelson’s new found talent is that he can always be tracked down in his house by following the clicking noises.

“[My husband and] I would joke and say ‘can anyone make a silent Rubik’s Cube?’ There was a constant clicking in the house,” remarked Christine. “To find him you just had to follow the clicks.”