In a ballroom in Bally's Vegas casino, kids are lined up on either side of a table with soldering guns melting metal to metal. Their small hands deftly join LED to circuit board, while a few feet away other children are learning the basics of developing. In the back of the room, a group of children and their parents watch two preteen girls give a presentation on the cryptography found in a TV show. This is R00tz Asylum, the kid-friendly portion of the Def Con hacker conference. From the first-timers ripping apart various electronics to see what makes them tick, to the teenage hacker "CyFi," who revealed her first zero-day exploit at age 10, R00tz is exposing children to the world of white-hat hacking to make the future of our digital world a bit safer.

With Samsung poised to reveal its latest take(s) on the smartphone in a matter of hours, we thought it was as good a time as any to take a look back. The Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+ are rumored to be on tap for tomorrow's festivities, two devices that would continue the company's affinity for super-sized phones and curved displays -- both of which are trends it started years ago. Of course, Samsung has experimented with a number of unique design flourishes. Some of them ended up setting the tone for the entire industry. Others, well, never really achieved liftoff (and with good reason).

It's that dreaded time of year when lazy summer days with their open invitation to sandals, surf and shirtlessness begin to give way to the crispness of fall, hoodies and the back-to-school doldrums. Ah, but there's hope on the horizon: You can always buy things to forget the scheduled machinery of life. And, oh, have we got some selections for you -- no matter your budget.

This week, we're upping the ante a bit with some more sophisticated (and pricier!) selections to suit your back-to-school needs.

We've taken a lot of good with the bad this week. On one hand, all four major cell carriers went down in the Southeast overnight, Samsung killed its Boxee project , Reddit banned its most famous racists, and YouTube nixed its venerable 301+ placeholder. On the plus side, Facebook started letting celebrities livestream themselves, Apple began streaming Dr Dre's comeback album Compton (though it's an Apple Music exclusive), Razer packed its gaming keyboards and keypads with technicolor dream lights and somebody 3D printed the most adorable teeny, tiny circular saw you'll ever see.

XCOM, Renowned Explorers, Hard West

2012's XCOM: Enemy Unknown was a revelation. I'd never played the '90s original or its successors, but I was immediately drawn in by the reboot's story, world and, most of all, combat mechanics. At its heart, XCOM is a turn-based strategy game that pits your team of four soldiers against an alien invasion. As anyone who has played it at all will tell you, though, it's so much more than that. A sequel is coming this November, but in the meantime, a pair of independent developers are readying their own takes on the genre, and they both have the potential to be truly special games in their own right.

Artist or scientist? Work of art or laboratory machine? The two pairs needn't be exclusive and we've collected a batch of real-world photos to prove it. The artistry in crafting experimental machines to explore the fabric of our world rivals that used to create futuristic movie sets or avant-garde sculptures. The closer you explore reality, the more unusual and exotic it tends to appear. With that in mind, we offer you a gallery of science-based gadget porn to dazzle your eyes and titillate your brain.

[Image: Lawrence Berkeley National Lab - photo by Roy Kaltschmidt]

Fall is right around the corner and whether you're looking for a fashionable accessory, fitness tracker or productivity wearable to see the season through, you've got plenty of great options. Apple's Watch has finally hit its stride, with a rich app selection and recent software updates, making it a top pick for the iOS crowd. For those more interested in a casual colorful design and long battery life, the Pebble Time may be just right for your wrist. LG's classically styled Watch Urbane has joined the stable of Android Wear devices and Garmin finally graced the niche fitness market with a proper smartwatch. All these and more are lined up in the gallery below for your perusal and can also be found in our complete buyer's guide.

Japan's got another robot. But this one isn't selling coffee or checking you into a hotel. No, this one has industrial metal claws on both hands, monster truck tires and a seat for you to sit in. Taguchi Industrial makes heavy-duty construction equipment. Its vehicles, featuring the same claws, were used following both the Tohoku tsunami and Kobe earthquake to clear debris. "Super Guzzilla" (there's no "Original Guzzilla" -- we checked), is what future construction vehicles will look like -- at least according to this company. Not only can it move over tough terrain, and is also equipped with two metal pincers adding improved mobility and efficiency when it comes to demolition or removal work. Is it a PR stunt? Oh good lord yes, but the team that helped design the cockpit also crafted an Oculus Rift simulator to show what it would be like inside. Oculus Rift? Giant robot capable of crushing buildings? For an Engadget editor, it's like a moth to a flame.

The Star Wars Battlefront franchise has a simple goal: to put players in the middle of huge, sprawling battles ripped straight from the films and wider fiction. Whether that's battling the AT-AT walkers on Hoth or an X-Wing squadron above Sullust, you're made to feel small -- just one of many soldiers fighting for the Rebel Alliance or Galactic Empire.

HTC has announced "significant cuts" and slashed jobs after posting a $265 million net loss, with more losses promised for the future. Reuters is reporting that the poor performance has been blamed on the company's One series of flagships that, while accomplished, are losing out to "more fashionable phones" in the market. TechCrunch is saying that HTC is hoping to reverse this trend by turning its attentions to the middle-tier of the market, devices that cost between $300 and $500, parking its tanks squarely on the lawns of Chinese rivals Huawei and Xiaomi.

The market for superzoom cameras is a niche one. But manufacturers continue to churn them out for people who want them, as small a group as this may be. And while Canon is designing models that can fit in your pocket, Sony's latest high-end superzoom is a very different kind of device. The RX10 II has a big, DSLR-like body (similar to its predecessor), which it needs to accommodate that Zeiss 24-200mm (35mm equivalent, constant f/2.8) zoom lens. Coupled with this fixed glass is a 1-inch, 20.2-megapixel Exmor RS BSI CMOS sensor and a BIONZ X image processor for fast and sharp shooting. Aside from being just a superzoom, though, the RX10 II is also being marketed as a premium video camera: It records 4K (3,840 x 2,160) at up to 30 fps and offers an insane slow-motion setting at 960 fps. After shooting with it for a day, I can say that everything comes together nicely -- and you'd hope as much considering its $1,300 asking price.

We love our tunes and we're guessing that most of you do too. If you're in the market for some portable audio gear or summer's been so great that you've inflicted serious damage on your current devices, we've got a fresh list of some of the best items out there. Samsung's Level On Wireless headphones are surprisingly comfy and sound great, while UE's affordable new Roll Bluetooth speaker doesn't disappoint. There's plenty more, so check out the gallery below for a rundown of what's new in portable audio or swing by our complete buyer's guide for a full listing of gadgets in every category.