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  • Level UP: inside Chicago's mall-based teen makerspace

    Level UP Chicago's mallbased teen maker space

    In 1947, the Tucker Car Corporation opened shop at the Dodge Chicago Plant, the one-time world’s largest building located on the city’s southwest side, a stone’s throw from Midway Airport. Half a decade before, construction workers lovingly nicknamed the site “Hitler’s Headache,” a title it earned for being the birthplace of most of the engines for World War II’s B-29 bombers. After Tucker’s notoriously brief tenure, Ford took over, again devoting the massive structure to the construction of military aircraft, this time for the Korean War. Look to the left of the entrance when you arrive at Level UP’s subterranean storefront, and you’ll spot a model of Tucker’s 1948 Sedan sitting atop a glass case. Jackie Moore keeps the little burgundy Tucker “Torpedo” for some small sense of history of the space her program occupies. “You know they made these right here,” she explains, holding a plastic version of Tucker’s stillborn dream. “All 51 of them.”

    Level UP is located in the basement beneath the food court of the Ford City Mall, a sprawling shopping center that opened up on the lot in 1965, borrowing its name from the third car company to take up residence here. Once upon a time, these underground tunnels housed cafeterias and machine classes for factory workers. These days, however, this particular wing stands more as a testament to the state of the American shopping mall in the early 21st century. Down here, there’s a hairstylist and shop devoted to eastern herbal remedies, but not much else to speak of beyond employee locker rooms and several empty storefronts. Moore apologizes for the mess when we first arrive. It’s clearly a well-loved space, with various tools of the trade scattered all over the tables and floor. Nearly every wall in the converted storefront is papered with writing — charts, diagrams and instructions for tinkering with electronics.

    In the middle of the space is a strange four-wheeled vehicle, with exposed circuitry and a small chute with a spinning wheel that sends Frisbees flying at high speeds. On a nearby table sits a huge orange Pac-Man-shaped cutout on wheels and a nearly finished CNC machine. There are a number of deconstructed Roomba-like iRobot open-source platforms, including two that serve as the base for anthropomorphic banana and grape characters built from PVC piping that are, admittedly, a bit worse for wear. Toward the front, beneath the Tucker Torpedo, is a glass case loaded with trophies and certificates from competitions with names like Botball, all testaments to the work that goes on here. Jackie Moore has devoted this space and her life to teaching kids how to build robots.

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  • Windows Phone App Studio makes it easy to build WP8 apps

    Windows Phone App Studio makes it easy to build WP8 apps

    Say what you will about Microsoft’s ecosystem struggles, but no one can fault it for trying. In an effort to get more developers to give Windows Phone 8 more than a passing glance, the outfit has just launched a beta version of Windows Phone App Studio — a web-based dev environment that’s “designed to help anyone quickly bring an idea to life by applying text, web content, imagery, and design concepts to any one of a rich set of customizable templates.” Moreover, Microsoft is now allowing any dev to unlock and register a single phone to use with up to two apps, and it’s also offering a $19 “Summer Break” Dev Center registration offer for those looking to actually publish software to the store. Finally, a new “Click To Chat” support program is being instituted to help those who can’t quite seem to overcome a programming hurdle. Take a look at the company’s blog post for the full skinny.

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    Source: Windows Phone Developer Blog, Windows Phone App Studio

  • We'll be liveblogging LG's G2 event tomorrow, join us at 11AM ET!

    Speculation is overrated — or at least LG seems to think so. The Korean phone-maker has already announced that the Optimus G will be succeeded by a handset dubbed the G2, and it’s pretty clear that tomorrow’s event will be a launch for that very device. There’s still plenty we don’t know about this upcoming handset, though, so you’ll want to point your browser right here as we bring you the latest news live from the NYC event.

    August 7, 2013 11:00:00 AM EDT

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  • Nokia intros App Social Beta for Windows Phone with crowdsourced app suggestions

    Nokia intros App Social Beta for Windows Phone, sources app selections from your friends

    Nokia may see a surge of Windows Phone apps on the horizon, but it’s not waiting for that deluge before it offers further app advice to new Lumia owners. Its new App Social Beta improves on App Highlights by crowdsourcing suggestions. Users create and follow app lists whose popularity determines which titles rise to the top; there’s also a news feed for those who only want to see recommendations from friends and favorite curators. There’s no guarantee that Nokia will help you find that perfect Instagram substitute, but App Social Beta’s immediate availability in 14 countries may keep the search time to a minimum.

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    Source: Windows Phone Store

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