Experiments beyond Bureaucracy:
Event formats at ESR Labs
Honoring the early history of software development that emerged from radical notions of experimentation, ESR Labs was founded as a place for out-of-the-box ideas. Hence, the name ESR Labs: Embedded Software Research Laboratory. Since the very first year in 2011, ESR Labs has been hosting a range of different event formats to awaken the inner child and bring code to life. Ranging from one-hour lecture talks to multi-day hackathons, the team is given the opportunity to step away from their day-to-day work, collaborate and pursue ideas no matter how crazy they might be. At ESR Labs coding is considered more than a job, where the passion for software development does not end with the workday.
Hosted in a remote and low-tech location like a cabin in the Austrian alps, Lab Days is the perfect setting to break away from entrenched routines. In this multi-day hackathon event, employees of ESR Labs come together to collaborate on one of multiple projects. The excitement starts already weeks before the event, when ad-hoc teams are formed to come up and prepare with the project, including organizing the necessary hardware. The projects can be fictional or real-life, and have included topics such as an embedded web server and gesture-based remote control for a TV-streaming platform. Although the projects do not need to have immediate utility, sometimes ideas like our diagnostic tool Flashmate Link→ do find their way back into the real world.
Happening at least once a month during working hours, Lab Session is a one hour Tech-Talk where team members present a topic they feel passionate about. Topics range from technical deep dives to speculative research, and can be both related and unrelated to the daily work. Past presentations have sparked a heated debate around topics such as Advanced Debugging with GDB, the importance of RUST or Bluetooth Low Energy.
The Lab Challenge is the most anticipated and gamified event at ESR Labs. For two days each year, the office is transformed into a workshop and arena. Teams are given a surprise challenge and the necessary hardware to bringing code to life. This can range from making a self-driving space buggy on Mars, a Sumo robot to wrestle with other teams or a robot that can solve a Rubik’s cube. Over the course of the two days, teams collect points for different tasks, culminating in a grand finale and a hearable excitement reminiscent of Oktoberfest.