7th Grade Engineering: The History of Manufacturing

With the help of Satisfactory and our free YouTube playlist, teach your child the complete history of manufacturing and the incredible engineering processes that create the consumer goods we use on a daily basis.

As with our other guides, we are not sponsored by any of the external products we recommend or the companies that produce them.

What is Manufacturing Engineering and Why is it Important?

We live in an age of extraordinary abundance, where ordinary household products fill the shelves of nearby discount stores, while more unusual items can be rapidly delivered from online retailers.  Throughout most of human history, the world has worked very differently: clothes, many food products, and numerous types of simple tools were made by the very same people who needed them, while other items were painstakingly created by expert craftsmen and artisans.

Nearly every major improvement in the quality of human life over the past several thousand years has been a direct consequence of improvements in manufacturing processes (and more indirectly, a consequence of the social and commercial developments that incentivized these engineering innovations – but that’s a topic we’ll cover more in our wealth and history curricula).  Understanding the development of manufacturing and industrial processes is essential to understanding the past, present, and probable future of human civilization.  It will also instill in students an appreciation for the many conveniences they enjoy: after completing this course, they will never look at a lightbulb or a loaf of bread quite the same way.

Students who follow this guide will design their own engineering processes.

Furthermore, manufacturing engineering (along with the related fields of industrial engineering and operations management) offers a great potential career path.  It’s often a matter of significant concern and media attention that “manufacturing jobs are leaving developed nations”.  That’s been historically true of certain production-line jobs, but it’s not as accurate for college-educated engineers today.  For example, there are an estimated 321,400 industrial engineers in the U.S., making a highly respectably median salary of $96,350.  This is also a very flexible career path, with graduates often finding employment in places besides factories: anywhere from financial firms to hospitals and technology companies.

Our course relies on three key resources:

  1. A more than 20 hour playlist that covers the complete history of manufacturing engineering in depth.
  2. The Satisfactory video game, which will allow children to get serious hands-on experience managing complex manufacturing processes.
  3. A tutorial playlist for Satisfactory that will help walk students through some of the initial complexities of the game.

Our Playlist: The History of Manufacturing

Our free playlist extensively covers the key developments in manufacturing processes that have led to the extraordinary wealth of modern society.  Beginning with ancient technologies like flint knapping and bloomery smelting, and ending with modern developments like assembly lines and plastic injection molding, our playlist follows humanity’s progression in a way that is clear and engaging for a middle school audience.

We believe this is one particular topic that traditional books simply can’t cover adequately: reading about the process of grinding wheat or operating a steam hammer can’t truly convey the difficulty of these tasks or the skill required of the workers.  Our playlist gives children an opportunity to see what these processes actually entailed with their own eyes.  In many ways, you can view it as a 20-hour field trip through time, and we’re confident your child will benefit from the experience.

This playlist is also intended to help students understand some of the engineering behind the tasks they’ll be accomplishing in the Satisfactory video game.  For the best experience with our course, your child should either (1) alternate watching videos from this playlist with playing Satisfactory, or (2) watch this playlist before playing Satisfactory.

We’ve included some videos from the Clickspring YouTube channel that show the process of building an ancient orrery / analogue computer (the Antikythera mechanism).  We think these videos are fantastic, but the complete process is very long (roughly four hours).  For this reason, we’ve only included part of the construction process in our playlist.  Students who enjoy the videos may wish to watch the remainder of the Antikythera videos from the Clickspring channel.


Satisfactory gets complicated very quickly.

Satisfactory is a phenomenal game about designing automated production processes.  Players construct machines to mine and smelt various types of ore, and then use these materials to create increasingly complex industrial products, such as steel pipes, motors, computers, and more.  Success requires managing the production lines for these goods in an intelligent way.

Meanwhile, players must also generate enough power to support their expanding factories.  They’ll need to construct power plants that run on coal, oil, uranium, or other resources, or they could face troublesome power blackouts.  Some power generators and production facilities require fluid inputs, like water or oil.  Players need to consider some basic principles of fluid dynamics in order to pump the required resources to their factories.  Eventually, players unlock the ability to build sophisticated cargo transportation systems using trains and aerial drones.

Players will need to handle a bit of fluid dynamics.

The game includes some minor elements of hunting/combat with animals, but this is not the game’s primary focus.  There is no graphic violence in the game.

Satisfactory is currently available in early access (meaning that the game is not fully complete, and the developers intend to add more features over time).  Despite being technically incomplete, Satisfactory is already an absolutely massive game, with enough content to keep most players occupied for more than 90 hours.  There’s far more than necessary to provide a middle schooler plenty of intellectual growth.

For the purpose of completing this course, students don’t need to complete the game.  They only need to accomplish two specific things:

  1. Generate power using a coal power plant.
  2. Automate production of steel beams.

It is likely to take students at least 20 hours to complete those tasks (perhaps as much as 40-60 hours, for some students).  At that point, they’ll have only begun to scratch the surface of what Satisfactory has to offer.  This is a game they’ll able to return to for years to come.

The game is currently priced at $29.99 on Steam (not an affiliate link), but like most games on Steam, you can expect deep sales if you’re patient.  If you aren’t already familiar with Steam and its parental controls, we strongly recommend that you read our parent’s guide to Steam.

Setting up coal power plants is one of the requirements for completion of this curriculum.

The Satisfactory Tutorial Playlist

Satisfactory is a complicated game.  Although middle school students should be able to play it effectively, getting started might seem overwhelming to some.  We’ve created a short tutorial playlist that will help guide students through some of the early challenges.  It’s not necessary for students to watch the tutorial playlist, but if they find themselves struggling or becoming frustrated, we strongly recommend that they watch the videos.

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