A Rubik's Cube robot that solves the iconic 80s toy puzzle with as few as 17 turns in 15 seconds has been created by students at Rowan University College of Engineering.
The heart of the Rubik's Cube-Solving Robot is a Siemens' programmable logic controller (PLC), a piece of equipment used in industry for such tasks as automating assembly lines.
The creators of the robot - Zachary Grady, 22, a senior electrical and computer engineering (ECE) major from Audubon, and Joe Ridgeway, 21, a senior ECE major from Norwalk, Conn. - programmed the PLC to turn all sides of the Rubik's Cube in a pattern.
"Every possible solution is a set of one of 18 moves," explained Ridgeway.ccording to Grady, those 18 moves are 90-, 180- or 270-degree turns of each of the six sides of the toy. The students picked a project in class that required them to demonstrate the PLC's capabilities.
"We thought we had to do something with robotics because of what the PLC is capable of," Ridgeway added.
Ridgeway, who is a Rubik's Cube prodigy of sorts - he can consistently solve the puzzle in about 45 seconds by hand and has had one in his room since freshman year - was confident his background could help with the task.
Grady and Ridgeway programmed the device so that every move equates to a number, developing a software program that converts signals into movements that solve the puzzle.
When the laptop connected to the device indicates which number to use, the PLC reads it and makes the move, a rather attention-getting turn that sounds like a large staple gun hard at work.
To date, the team has programmed the Rubik's Cube-Solving Robot to solve two possible combinations of colour patterns.
"We made this from scratch. We spent a couple of days building the (support structure) alone. This allowed us to really pick up a large amount of the mechanical aspect of engineering," said Grady.
"This project enabled our students to understand the design and operation of PLCs, which are the building blocks of industrial automation, in a fun and competitive learning environment," said Shreekanth Mandayam, who acted as an adviser to the students.