The Factory

Since the 1950s, a 24,000-square-foot, off-campus research facility, located in the Fort Collins foothills, has endured dozens of renovations; the latest renovation transformed the facility into “The Factory.” Its diverse history has made it one of CSU’s most unique facilities, and its new name offers a glimpse into its inception in 1958.

The most recent renovations were initiated to provide research spaces for two new faculty members, Drs. Kaka Ma and Chris Weinberger, and as part of the development for the University’s newest interdisciplinary program, The School of Advanced Materials Discovery.

An image of the Factory today.

From 2002-2017, the facility was known as the Motorsport Engineering Research Center, or “The MERC,” to the CSU community. The center’s initial goal was to accommodate faculty and students involved in motorsport-related research, design, and development; however, with the economic downturn, the demand for motorsport engineering diminished, so the department diversified the facility in 2014.

Since 2004, the facility has also been home to the Composite Materials, Manufacture, and Structures research lab run by Dr. Donald Radford, and, more recently, the Advanced Materials Processing and Testing Lab, both of which continue to operate today. For many years, the Formula SAE Ram Racing team used the MERC to develop their racecars. Past FSAE president, and now ME alumnus and advisory board member, Adam Grabish, ’15, remembers his experiences there.

“The MERC was my home away from home for three years. FSAE was as much as part of the MERC as the MERC was a part of FSAE. I am the engineer I am today because of my time spent on the team, and I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything.” When Dr. Thomas Bradley joined the department in the fall of 2008, the EcoCAR program also operated at the MERC for a short time, along with other senior design activity from 2004-2014.

Dr. Kaka Ma’s new lab space.

The center also housed an assortment of state-of-the-art computational and advanced manufacturing equipment, and a wireless network that covered the majority of the 10- acre site – optimizing data transfer from racecars to laboratories. In addition to research, the adjoining MERC Annex included a conference and education center allowing for courses and training to take place.

In the 1960s, the 14,000-square-foot site was acquired by CSU, and, until 2002, was used for agricultural engineering research. Extensive renovations that took place during this time included the development of the annex, the building of a Food Extrusion Laboratory, the addition of meeting rooms and offices, the building of a machine shop, and, finally, the introduction of an indoor crop research lab. The AERC moved to the Agricultural Research, Development, and Education Center in 2002.

In 1958, the Silvaire Aircraft Factory built this facility to assemble 80 Luscombe Silvaire aircraft. At the time, this area of Fort Collins was envisioned as a technology park by J.D. Forney, a local businessman, who persuaded the Silvaire Company to locate in Fort Collins. This site was appealing for aircraft development due to its proximity to Christman Field, which allowed completed aircraft to be moved directly to the airport.

The Factory is an ever-changing piece of Fort Collins’ history that has made an impact at each stage of its existence. Its longevity has given it character and importance in the community, and we look forward to what the future holds for this research facility that has provided academic enrichment to engineering students for decades. If you are interested in touring this new space, contact Sona Srinarayana – – for more information.