Environment & Science

'Next MacGyver' contest hopes to inspire female engineers

Riveting Concept Art by Tim Szabo, story by Miranda Sajdak. During WWII, a local prom queen's life is turned upside down when her fiancee is killed overseas. Determined to make sure that never happens again, the girl goes to work as an engineer, learning and perfecting her trade to do her part for the war effort.
Riveting Concept Art by Tim Szabo, story by Miranda Sajdak. During WWII, a local prom queen's life is turned upside down when her fiancee is killed overseas. Determined to make sure that never happens again, the girl goes to work as an engineer, learning and perfecting her trade to do her part for the war effort.
Tim Szabo
Riveting Concept Art by Tim Szabo, story by Miranda Sajdak. During WWII, a local prom queen's life is turned upside down when her fiancee is killed overseas. Determined to make sure that never happens again, the girl goes to work as an engineer, learning and perfecting her trade to do her part for the war effort.
Ada and the Machine concept art by Zoe Chevat, story by Shanee Edwards. In 1832, 17-year-old Ada Lovelace, the real-life daughter of the poet Lord Byron, meets the first computer engineer, a young and dashing Charlie Babbage. A highly skilled mathematician, Ada generates logarithms and creates programs for Charlie’s wild new calculating machines. Together, they adventure through the steam age, obsessed with creating a super machine that can be programmed to “think” like a human.
Zoe Chevat
Riveting Concept Art by Tim Szabo, story by Miranda Sajdak. During WWII, a local prom queen's life is turned upside down when her fiancee is killed overseas. Determined to make sure that never happens again, the girl goes to work as an engineer, learning and perfecting her trade to do her part for the war effort.
Imagineers concept art by Brian Rhodes, story by Wesley Burger. An offbeat single-cam workplace comedy about a diverse group of quirky but brilliant Disney Imagineers who make dreams come true. Think Silicon Valley or The Office but aimed at teens and infused with official behind-the-scenes Disney material a la The Wonderful World of Disney. This is a fictional series that will cross over with real Disney properties, events, attractions, culture, and lore – making that classic mouse house magic freshly relevant in the current tech zeitgeist.
Brian Rhodes
Riveting Concept Art by Tim Szabo, story by Miranda Sajdak. During WWII, a local prom queen's life is turned upside down when her fiancee is killed overseas. Determined to make sure that never happens again, the girl goes to work as an engineer, learning and perfecting her trade to do her part for the war effort.
Isabelle.exe concept art by Ruolin Li, story Daniel Wright. Isabelle thinks she's an ordinary college freshman, until an accident reveals she's an advanced robot with programmed memories, but not a very well put-together one. With the help of fellow students and professors, Isabelle tries to learn how to keep herself functioning and figure out who created her, and why.
Isabelle.exe Concept Art by Ruolin Li
Riveting Concept Art by Tim Szabo, story by Miranda Sajdak. During WWII, a local prom queen's life is turned upside down when her fiancee is killed overseas. Determined to make sure that never happens again, the girl goes to work as an engineer, learning and perfecting her trade to do her part for the war effort.
Doctor Tailor concept art by Mina Price, story by Kristen Bobst. Former fashion designer Tilly Tailor became a wearable technology engineer after clothing saved her life. Working as a consultant for the FBI, she helps solve crimes and foil wrongdoers by examining, creating, and hacking articles of clothing. She gives “dressed to kill” a new meaning.
Mina Price
Riveting Concept Art by Tim Szabo, story by Miranda Sajdak. During WWII, a local prom queen's life is turned upside down when her fiancee is killed overseas. Determined to make sure that never happens again, the girl goes to work as an engineer, learning and perfecting her trade to do her part for the war effort.
Enhanced concept art by Peter Bollinger, story by Sam Ruano. Enhanced deals with crimes and criminals of the late 21-st century where technology, biology and robotics have given rise to a new breed of criminal. The show follows the career and personal life of bioengineer Claire Parish, as she adapts to life as a newly recruited FBI field agent. Selected for her expertise in the field, Claire helps her team investigate crimes perpetrated by individuals with artificially enhanced abilities amidst a growing climate of civil unrest and techno-paranoia.
Peter Bollinger
Riveting Concept Art by Tim Szabo, story by Miranda Sajdak. During WWII, a local prom queen's life is turned upside down when her fiancee is killed overseas. Determined to make sure that never happens again, the girl goes to work as an engineer, learning and perfecting her trade to do her part for the war effort.
@Gnosis concept art by Matt Griffin, story by Judy Wu. It's Veronica Mars meets Gossip Girl meets Hackers with a social media element. When the mayor’s popular daughter is abducted, five teenagers form an alliance to share clues via a Twitter(esque) alias (@Gnosis) to solve the mystery. They realize that there is a genius psychopath out there who is bent on destroying not only their town but their lives. Only by using their kick-ass brains can they outsmart the villain. The interactive Twitter element will be used to engage the audience during the show, week by week, to build the plot and create stimulating discussion.
Matt Griffin
Riveting Concept Art by Tim Szabo, story by Miranda Sajdak. During WWII, a local prom queen's life is turned upside down when her fiancee is killed overseas. Determined to make sure that never happens again, the girl goes to work as an engineer, learning and perfecting her trade to do her part for the war effort.
The Mind concept art by Eric Tortora Pato, story by Nao Murakami. In the universe that’s just like ours, but slightly different, the minds of great scientists and innovators are stored within the super computer. When that technology gets stolen, an engineer forms a partnership with an android who can download the minds of the past.
Eric Tortora Pato
Riveting Concept Art by Tim Szabo, story by Miranda Sajdak. During WWII, a local prom queen's life is turned upside down when her fiancee is killed overseas. Determined to make sure that never happens again, the girl goes to work as an engineer, learning and perfecting her trade to do her part for the war effort.
Q Branch concept art by Matthew Zikry, story by Craig Motlong. You know those gadgets that spies use on dangerous missions? The shoe phones, the laser pens, the gas pellets hidden in watches? Someone goes in the field and invents those. This is her story.
Matthew Zikry
Riveting Concept Art by Tim Szabo, story by Miranda Sajdak. During WWII, a local prom queen's life is turned upside down when her fiancee is killed overseas. Determined to make sure that never happens again, the girl goes to work as an engineer, learning and perfecting her trade to do her part for the war effort.
Rule 702 concept art by Jiedi Chen, story by Beth Keser. A young and beautiful engineering and science prodigy decides to forego corporate life to pursue a career as an expert witness. She spends her new life traveling across the country to testify in torn-from-the-headlines cases, but in each case she finds a mystery that requires a keen mind and scientific investigation to find the truth.
Jiedi Chen
Riveting Concept Art by Tim Szabo, story by Miranda Sajdak. During WWII, a local prom queen's life is turned upside down when her fiancee is killed overseas. Determined to make sure that never happens again, the girl goes to work as an engineer, learning and perfecting her trade to do her part for the war effort.
Kansas concept art by Kathy Liu, story by Shane Courtney. Sophie Villeneuve, a celebrated French engineer, overcomes personal tragedy by immersing herself in creating the first human settlement on Mars.
Kansas Concept Art by Kathy Liu
Riveting Concept Art by Tim Szabo, story by Miranda Sajdak. During WWII, a local prom queen's life is turned upside down when her fiancee is killed overseas. Determined to make sure that never happens again, the girl goes to work as an engineer, learning and perfecting her trade to do her part for the war effort.
SECs (Science and Engineering Clubs) concept art by Michael Penick, story by Jayde Lovell. Emily, a beautiful but snotty teenager, must join the high school Science and Engineering Club to avoid getting expelled, after accidentally setting fire to the school gymnasium during a science fair. She helps the club achieve their dreams of one day coming first at FIRST, the national science and technology competition for teens. It's Glee meets Mean Girls, with an educational element embedded in each episode.
Michael Penick


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Remember MacGyver? The man with a mullet who could work his way out of a jam using just some string, a clothes hanger and a pocket knife?

That TV character is thought to have inspired a generation of young men to become problem-solving engineers.

Now, a contest called The Next MacGyver is hoping to launch a TV series that’ll do the same for women.

Screenwriters submitted nearly 2,000 show ideas and Tuesday judges will pick five winners who'll be paired with producers to further develop their pitches.

The plan comes from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, the National Academy of Engineering and Lee Zlotoff, the creator of MacGyver.

"We need positive role models," said Wanda Austin, a judge for the contest and the President and CEO of the private space company Aerospace Corporation.

Growing up as an African American in the 1960s, Austin said no one was really encouraging her to study engineering. That didn't stop her, though. She eventually got a doctorate in the field from USC.

Still, she wants girls today to know they can also chose this path and that being good at math "doesn’t mean that you have to consider yourself a nerd or a geek."

Despite the fact that engineering jobs are in demand, only about 10 percent of engineers are female.

Some of this might be due to the fact that TV and movies rarely show women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs.

In fact, a few years back, The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media analyzed more than 100 top-grossing family films from 2006 to 2011. Not one had a female lead with a STEM job.

Rita Karl works with a PBS program called SciGirls. It’s a reality show where young women tackle real-world engineering problems.

She thinks this lack of STEM role models is a problem for girls looking to study science and math.

"Role models can broaden girl’s view not only of who can do STEM but what is possible in their own lives," she noted.

Karl says research shows that seeing other women in STEM inspires girls, especially when those women are fully realized characters with social lives, hobbies and friends.

That’s why she thinks a well-written female engineer on a major TV show could do wonders for the STEM gender gap.

But even the five winners of the Next MacGyver contest aren’t guaranteed a show. They’ll be given $5,000 and help from a producer, but they'll have to shop their idea around to the networks in hopes of getting picked up.

Shanee Edwards is one of the finalists selected from the hundreds of entries. When she's not writing screenplays, she works as entertainment journalist and an after school science teacher.

Her show is called "Ada and the Machine," a fictionalized drama about the real-life historical figure Ada Lovelace.

Back in the 1840s, Lovelace worked with a sophisticated machine to develop an algorithm that paved the way for modern computers.

"She was a rebel in a time when she was supposed to get married, and be a good Victorian wife, she wanted to have her own contributions to science," Edwards said.

The show takes place in London during the Industrial Revolution, where Ada solves technology themed mysteries with the help of a giant machine known as the Analytical Engine.

Fellow screenwriter Miranda Sajdak also created a period piece that is set in the U.S. during World War II.

It’s an hour long drama called "Riveting" and it follows a young woman who joins the Military Corp of Engineers after her fiancé is killed overseas.

"So we follow her over the series essentially going from small town, wanting to raise a family to becoming an engineer," Sajdak said.

If it reminds you of the 1992 film "A League of Their Own," Sajdak said that’s because that movie changed her life.

"I literally left the theater saying this is what I want to do I want to make media that inspires people the way I feel inspired right now."

If her show idea win the contest, she might get the chance to fulfill that longstanding dream.

The five winners will be announced Tuesday, July 28th at The Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills.