Worldwide Crowdsourcing Competition Seeks Ideas for TV Series with a Female Engineer Lead


Thu, February 19, 2015

Washington, DC, February 19, 2015 —

In celebration of National Engineers Week, the U.S. National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering (USC Viterbi), in collaboration with The MacGyver Foundation and Lee Zlotoff (creator of the TV series MacGyver), today announced the launch of a worldwide crowdsourcing competition called “The Next MacGyver.” The contest was launched at a press event in Washington, D.C., hosted by "TODAY Show" digital lifestyle expert Mario Armstrong. 

Sponsored by the United Engineering Foundation, the project is seeking ideas for a scripted television show featuring a female engineer character in a leading role. The goal of the competition is to create a historic TV series that inspires young people, especially women, to pursue careers in engineering.  Five winners will each receive $5,000 and have the rare opportunity to be paired with top Hollywood producers, who will mentor them to develop the female character and an engaging pilot script. Ultimately, the finalists will work to develop viable concept packages for pitching to a network or distributor.

The competition mentors include:

  • America Ferrera (actress: Ugly Betty, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, How to Train Your Dragon) and Gabrielle Neimand (Head of Development), Take Fountain Productions
  • Clayton Krueger, senior vice president of television, Scott Free Productions ("3001: The Final Odyssey")
  • Lori McCreary, CEO and founder, Revelations Entertainment; president, Producer’s Guild of America ("Madam Secretary," "Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman")
  • Roberto Orci, writer/producer ("Star Trek," "Scorpion," "Sleepy Hollow," "Hawaii Five-O," "Fringe")
  • Anthony E. Zuiker, creator and executive producer, CSI franchise (including the soon-to-be launched "CSI:Cyber")
  • (Final mentor to be announced later)

“We could not be more pleased to have some of Hollywood’s top talent donating their time to develop compelling women engineer characters and bringing them to life on the screen,” said NAE President C.D. Mote Jr. “This contest provides a rare opportunity to tell a story of engineering and engineers that people practically never see.”

The hugely successful "MacGyver" series, launched 30 years ago in 1985, followed the adventures of fictional government agent Angus MacGyver, who resourcefully used his engineering skills to solve problems in each episode. “I literally could not tell you how many times people have come up to me and said ‘I became an engineer or I went into the sciences because of MacGyver,’” said Zlotoff.

"The Next MacGyver" competition is not trying to re-create that show but, using the power of crowdsourcing, develop an original TV series with female role models who will help young people – particularly young women – see themselves as engineers.

“Having been one of only a few women at UCLA studying computer science,” said Revelations Entertainment CEO and contest mentor Lori McCreary, “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to help inspire a new generation of women forging a path in engineering and technology.”

A recent report by the National Student Clearinghouse showed a decrease in the number of U.S. women pursuing engineering bachelor degrees between 2004-2014 to just 19 percent. Next week, Change the Equation will present new data showing that despite numerous efforts to attract them, the percentage of women in the engineering workforce has remained stagnant – at just about 24 percent – since 2001.

At a town hall meeting last year, President Obama remarked, “When you see an engineer or a tech person on a TV show or movies, something like 90 percent of them are male.  So if you never see you in that position, it’s hard to imagine, well, that’s something I should be doing.”

“The new face of engineering is not that of Dilbert in the cartoons,” adds USC Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos. “It is the face of bright women and men, spanning societal, racial, and ethnic divides. Diversity is not a political slogan; it is an essential ingredient for innovation.”

There is strong evidence indicating that cultural cues have impact, such as the jump in forensic science enrollments after "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" became a hit show. What CSI did for science is what engineering can do for humankind," said Anthony E. Zuiker, creator of the CSI franchise and a mentor on the new project. "Through ingenuity and innovation, the medium of TV will help galvanize youth to go into the field of engineering.”

“The Next MacGyver” competition opens today and the deadline for entry has been extended to May 1, 2015. Initial idea submissions will be roughly one page of content to include a proposed title and genre, short description of the show, breakdown of lead characters, and ideas for episodes beyond the pilot. A panel of judges from engineering, entertainment, and academia will select 12 contestants to further develop their ideas and pitch them to another panel of judges at a live event this summer. Five finalists will be selected at that time, and pilot scripts will be completed by the end of this year.

More details about the contest and rules for entering can be found at

The National Academy of Engineering. The mission of the National Academy of Engineering is to advance the well-being of the nation by promoting a vibrant engineering profession and by marshalling the expertise and insights of eminent engineers to provide independent advice to the federal government on matters involving engineering and technology. The NAE is part of the National Academies (along with the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council), an independent, nonprofit organization chartered by Congress to provide objective analysis and advice to the nation on matters of science, technology, and medicine.

The USC Viterbi School of Engineering. Engineering studies began at the University of Southern California in 1905. Nearly a century later, the Viterbi School of Engineering received a naming gift in 2004 from alumnus Andrew J. Viterbi, inventor of the Viterbi algorithm now key to cell phone technology and numerous data applications. Consistently ranked among the top graduate programs in the world, the school enrolls more than 6,500 undergraduate and graduate students, taught by 180 tenured and tenure-track faculty, with 73 endowed chairs and professorships.

The MacGyver Foundation. The MacGyver name is synonymous with innovation, ingenuity, and the ability to solve complex problems using only the resources at hand, particularly in the face of a crisis. The MacGyver Foundation aims to encourage and support individuals and organizations throughout the world that utilize self-reliance, nonviolence, and sustainability to improve people’s lives.

Lee Zlotoff is an award-winning writer, producer, and director of film and television. Among his more than one hundred hours of television credits, he was the creator of the hit series “MacGyver” as well as the writer/director of the indie hit film “Spitfire Grill” which won the coveted Audience Award at the Sundance film festival.  Mr. Zlotoff, who has also been a regular contributor to Make magazine, looks to further STEM education through MacGyver-based curricula and initiatives to help create the next generation of problem-solvers.



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