Kevin Hays, 19, of Renton, Washington, is studying math, in Arts  &  Sciences, and computer science at Washington University in St. Louis - and now he has a new world record in the Rubik's Cube, taking the top spot from ... himself.

Hays solved the “6x6” Rubik’s Cube in 1 minute, 40 seconds, 9 seconds faster than his previous record. The 6 x 6 cube has 36 squares per side; that’s a total of 216 squares Hays twisted and turned into perfect alignment. 

For comparison, most of us grew up trying (and failing) to solve  it did so with a standard 3 x 3 cube, which has nine squares per side.

Hays said he has memorized some 80 algorithms to master the 6 x 6 cube. He started playing as a high school freshman and, at one point, trained three hours a day. Now he only practices before big competitions.

Kevin Hays works to solve a Rubik’s Cube in record time. Credit: WUSTL

“It’s not as much math as you might think,” Hays told Diane Toroian Keaggy in their statement. “It’s more pattern recognition and muscle memory execution. You need the kind of mind that can see something and then immediately associate it with what you have to do.”

Hays said he never expected to break the world record.

“In competition, I’m pretty nervous,” Hays said. “To get 1:40 was nuts. It will be a long time before I get a time that good again.”

Hays came close to breaking the world record two years ago, but then the cube literally fell apart in his hands.

Hays also won first place in  the 5x5, 6x6 and 7x7 events at the World Rubik's Cube Championship 2013, which took place in Las Vegas last month.

He's not the only Rubik’s Cube master at WUSTL. As a teenager, Provost Holden Thorp, PhD, competed against fellow champions on the television show That’s Incredible and won the first round, solving the standard 3x3 cube in 48 seconds. Which was impressive … for the 1980s. Today, the best competitors can solve the cube in less than 10 seconds.

“What Kevin has done is an extraordinary challenge," Thorp said. "To be able to solve it at all is a herculean effort, and to do be able to do it in 1:40 is almost otherworldly."

So would Thorp accept a Rubik’s Cube throwdown against Hays?

“So long as he does the 6x6 and I still get to do the 3x3,” Thorp said.