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Rubik's Cube wizard 2:20

How fast can you solve a Rubik’s Cube? In five minutes? Maybe 10?

Antoine Cantin has you beat. By a lot.

The Ottawa-area teenager is the world record holder for solving the popular 3D puzzle, owning a blazing average time of 12.56 seconds. With one hand.

Cantin was in Hamilton Monday, an unusual addition to the speakers list at the Innovation Nation Conference produced by the Centre for Surgical Invention and Innovation (CSII) – a nationally funded “research accelerator.”

He stands out a little among a speakers list of renowned surgeons, philanthropists and CEOs – and he knows it. For organizers, Cantin's inclusion is about keeping conference participants engaged, but also demonstrating a variety of creative skills and approaches to problem-solving. 

“I thought I was just a kid playing with toys – but here I am,” he told CBC Hamilton. 

The 16-year-old’s interest with the Hungarian puzzle was seeded because of a simple sibling rivalry. His older brother showed him how to use it, “but it seemed like kind of a boring toy,” he said. But before long, Cantin felt the need to beat his brother’s time. “I wanted to solve it faster than him. It’s that sibling thing,” he said.

When he started, he could muster a downright average 10-minute finish. Now, through careful strategy, practice and some time plumbing the depths of YouTube, Cantin is a world record holder. He uses the Fridrich Method of solving the cube, which involves a layer-by-layer process for solving it combined with using algorithms on the fly.

“He’s incredibly bright, both when it comes to puzzle solving and math,” said Debra Vivian, director of communications with the CSII. “We try to mix it up and bring in people with a variety of skills and ideas here.”

Now as a tenth-grader, Cantin will see how long he can defend his coveted world record spot. It’s not a title he’ll relinquish easily, considering the feeling he got when he first claimed it.

“It was kind of overwhelming, but it’s an amazing feeling.”