Origins of the Collaboratory

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The Collaboratory program and methodology have long been interdisciplinary, but our origins are with the Department of Engineering at Messiah College. Since beginning their program in 1989 the engineering faculty has determined to teach responsible living and creative problem solving by enabling students to express value commitments and disciplinary knowledge through hands-on learning in real-life settings. One such activity began in January 1996 when an interdenominational mission sending organization called SIM invited a four person team, two professors and two students, to visit their work in West Africa and explore partnership opportunities. Following that visit, SIM Burkina Faso invited us to develop a solar power plan for a medical clinic in the rural village of Mahadaga. Student leaders of that first project team and their advisor dreamed of enabling projects of similar character in many academic disciplines, but as we began to consider additional projects we learned the importance of limiting the scope of our project activities to fit with the advisors, students, and funding resources at hand. We determined, therefore, to limit new projects to development of assistive technologies for the poor. This work grew in time into an organization of multiple technical and one management group and took the name ’’Dokimoi Ergatai’’ (DE).

The engineering faculty and their students also developed other engagement and service activities, including the Genesis Solar Racing Team, the Messiah College Landmine Action Project, Water for the World, and Antenna Communications and Telemetry Systems. This body of work gained the attention of the Harsco Corporation, a Harrisburg, PA engineering firm, that in 1999 made a lead grant to the College to form a center called The Collaboratory to coordinate the various projects. DE became an organization within an organization. In 2002 Dr. Ray Norman, Dean of the newly formed School of Mathematics, Engineering and Business (MEB), formed a Collaboratory Expansion Task Force to expand the scope of Collaboratory programming to serve the entire MEB School. New partnerships emerged with organizations like World Vision, PACTEC and Hope International; and there were new projects, such as data base development, internal financial auditing and controls, and water access for persons with disabilities.

For a time The Collaboratory remained an informal confederation of faculty sponsored projects and their student teams, plus the organization DE comprised of an administrative Staff Group and Application Groups. The DE Application Groups maintained a knowledge base in their area and sponsored Teams to complete Projects with external partners, while the Staff Group provided administrative oversight and support services. In this way, DE developed support structures and services needed throughout the Collaboratory to promote quality, collaboration, and resource sharing between multiple project activities. The Director of the Collaboratory therefore asked DE members to merge their structure and support services into the Collaboratory, and to extend their identity and ethos as approved workers throughout the larger organization. DE has experienced continual growth and change since its inception, a process that has brought us back to our early vision of connecting academics to Christian service in many disciplines. Although "Dokimoi Ergatai" is no longer an organization, it continues as the motivating principle for all that we do in the Collaboratory, and the heart of our Christian discipleship. Please contact David Vader if you require further information about the origins of DE or the Collaboratory.

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