I think we should have something like in the nuclear reactor:
-you have a machine in front of you (let's say a generator), and you can add some items to get it a bit better (I mean, better turbines, have a liquid that vaporizes better or stuff like that).
Also, we could make the mod so that you don't craft something with the machine block, but you place the machine block in the world and then you add stuff in it, by opening a gui, taking your wrench, your hammer, the different cables you have, and you put your hands in the nasty motor oil of the machine.
I think that's the best way to do a research thing.
And have things blow up if you wire the circuitry wrong?
Punishment is its own reward!