If you’ve been to Spark, you have probably noticed the larger-than-life Rubik’s Cube towering over visitors in the atrium, but you probably didn’t know that it was built by a Sparkian! Wes Nelson, one of Spark’s resident builder/creator/maker/imaginers, designed and built the cube in 2018, bringing the 80’s favourite toy to a literally record-breaking size.
Wes describes the process he went through in designing and building the enormous puzzle,
“I’ve been doing 3D mechanical design for 18 years, and spent several years designing large public artworks, so this wasn’t really a difficult project. I tell people it felt like it designed itself: once I got going all of the features fell into the exact places they needed to be. There weren’t really any “problems” I had to solve in the design.
One difficulty that often comes up is that it’s hard to convince people that you can actually do what you say you can do. For the cube I ended up making a smaller version out of clear acrylic that was cut on our CNC laser. I wouldn’t really call it a prototype, as the larger one used completely different materials and a different design approach. Its purpose was to show that making a large working Rubik’s cube wasn’t actually as difficult as people thought. It also demonstrated that a Rubik’s cube still works even when it’s sitting in the stand.”
If step one is convincing people that your big ideas are MORE than just big ideas, but actually feasible projects, then step two is design,
“The first step in designing the actual cube was to make a rough 3D model so that I could estimate the materials, cost, and time required. If it would have ended up costing $10,000 then I would have abandoned the project. As it was, I felt I could make the cube and the stand for under $2500. I went around and pitched the project to see if we could scrounge up some budget for it. I may have even threatened to pay for it myself, with the caveat that I was taking it home after we got the record.
After the project was approved at that price point, I further developed the 3D model to the point where I was confident ordering materials. I finished the rest of the model while waiting for materials to arrive.
One nice thing about fabricating your own design is that you can skip over a lot of the small details, which saves a LOT of time. I didn’t have to generate enough documentation for someone else to build it, since I was the one building it. I could work from the 3D model instead of needing drawings, and I could grab whatever dimensions I needed on the fly instead of having every last detail pre-documented. I could remember to add certain details without having to model them. I probably saved 3 weeks by cutting those corners.”
Teams convinced, design in place, then it’s time for the fun part — building! It took Wes roughly two weeks to finish the design, and then 5 weeks for the Rubik’s Cube to be built. All of which was completed successfully, ending in a fully-functional Rubik’s Cube standing at Spark for visitors and worldwide readers to enjoy, as the Rubik’s Cube has achieved the Guinness World Record for the largest Rubik’s Cube!
What are Wes’s plans now? Well, larger-than-life projects are in his sights.
I have a design for the world’s largest carnival carousel that I would like to build sometime before I die. It’s 100 feet in diameter and features western themes and 165 head of cattle instead of horses. I think it would be iconic for Calgary.
While we can’t wait for the world’s largest carousel to make its debut, there is still more to come from the Rubik’s Cube which will be moving to the Spark lobby to give it the fame and appreciation it deserves.
World records and impossibly large projects are awesome, but Wes’s Rubik’s Cube is so much more than that. It is an example of what happens when you allow yourself to get excited about a project, share that excitement with others and push boundaries to make that project a reality.
Snap a pic with the World's Largest Rubik's Cube in person!