The Next MacGyver

Fall 2015

Logline: During World War II, a local prom queen’s life is turned upside down when her fiancé 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.


Bio: Miranda Sajdak is a film and TV writer/producer/director currently living in Los Angeles. She’s worked for producers of films from indie hits like Drive to studio features like Final Destination and showrunners of China, IL; Huge and My So-Called Life. She co-wrote/produced/directed the short Snapshot with Savannah Dooley, which premiered at Outfest in 2010. In 2012, she co-founded coverage service Script Chix and production company Under the Stairs Entertainment. She also produces with Center Mass Studios. Additionally, she was a finalist in Go Into the Story’s feature film Quest Initiative in 2013.


Quote: “For me, my World War II-era story ‘Riveting’ was inspired not only by my grandfather having served in World War II, but also by my direct knowledge of how positive representations of women can inspire young girls to join industries they might not otherwise know about. I saw the movie A League of Their Own a female-directed film with a great cast of incredible women as a kid and it made me want to join the entertainment industry. So I took inspiration from both of those life events to craft ‘Riveting.’”



Logline: 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.


Bio: Jayde Lovell is a STEM communicator for the New York Hall of Science, and “resident science host” for YouTube’s TYT Network. After enduring a degree in neuroscience, she decided something had to be done to change the way STEM subjects were communicated. She relocated to New York to launch the YouTube channel “Did Someone Say Science?” from YouTube Studios. She has produced videos for organizations such as NASA, Scientific American, the American Institute of Physics and Rolls Royce Engineering, and has been featured in BuzzFeed, Men’s Health, The Peak and USA Today.


Quote: “This pitch is very autobiographical — I was that girl who could have been a kick-ass engineer, but didn’t pursue it because it seemed too nerdy! So I wrote the idea with a 15-year-old version of myself in mind.”



Logline: 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.


Bio: Craig Motlong is a creative director at an advertising agency in Seattle. He grew up playing with tinkertoys and erector sets, and watching The Six Million Dollar Man, fascinated with the way technology keeps pushing humanity forward. He is an avid hiker and reader, and is thrilled to be living in the golden age of television. He is the father of twin preschoolers who are already learning to code.


Quote: “Ultimately, I hope we get enough shows starring smart, capable, complex female engineers on the air that the conversation becomes moot. Like commenting on a red fire hydrant or a dog with a tail. ‘Of course she’s an engineer. That’s what women do.’”



Logline: 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.


Bio: After earning her Master’s Degree in Screenwriting from UCLA Film School, Edwards received several awards including the Samuel Goldwyn Excellence in Screenwriting Award, the Women in Film Award and the Alfred P. Sloan Science in Screenwriting Award. She recently made her directing debut in her short film Wink, and is currently the film critic for the online magazine In addition, she produces and hosts the Web series “She Blinded Me with Science” to encourage young girls to explore science and technology.


Quote: “[Ada Lovelace] was a genius and a rebel in a time when women weren’t allowed to participate in the growing technological revolution. Ada is an amazing role model for young women for her brains and courage.”


Logline: 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.


Bio: Beth Keser, Ph.D., a recognized global leader in the semiconductor industry with more than 17 years of real-world experience, received her B.S. degree in Materials Science and Engineering from Cornell University and her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Keser’s excellence in developing revolutionary electronic packages for semiconductor devices has resulted in eight patents, 11 patents pending, and more than 40 publications in the semiconductor industry. Based in San Diego, Keser leads the Low Cost Device Assembly Technology initiative at Qualcomm.


Quote: “The stereotype of an engineer is someone working alone in a cubicle, in a lab, but it’s really about teamwork, people coming together.”


Logline: 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.


Bio: Nao Murakami is a PhD candidate in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at University of Washington.  She grew up in upstate New York, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2007 and a Master of Engineering degree in Aerospace Engineering in 2008, both from Cornell University.  Having experienced the gender disparity in STEM field firsthand, Nao is passionate about inspiring women to pursue STEM.  Her love for storytelling and good TV drama drew her to enter in The Next MacGyver competition, and she is excited to be part of the top 12 finalists.



Logline: An offbeat single-cam workplace comedy for Disney, ABC, or ABC Family 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.


Bio: Wesley Newburg is a writer, entrepreneur, and technology executive. As Director of Business Development at the El Segundo based entertainment technology startup MediaHound, Wesley manages partnerships, licensing strategy, and recruiting. Wesley received a BFA in Writing for Screen & Television from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, where he wrote several feature scripts fueled by a strong sense of genre as well as three original television pilots. Hailing from Saint Charles, Missouri, Wesley now lives in Long Beach, California with his wife Hannah and enjoys cooking, beach volleyball, and taking care of their adopted animal family.



Logline: Sophie Villeneuve, a celebrated French engineer, overcomes personal tragedy by immersing herself in creating the first human settlement on Mars.


Bio: Shane Courtney was born on the East Coast of Ireland, where storytelling is a national pastime. So it’s no surprise that writing is his passion. Raised in the small town of Warrenpoint, in County Down, he attended Newry & Kilkeel College, and graduated with a degree in Media Studies in 2008. After three years of working odd jobs to fund his writing, Shane moved to the U.S. to marry his wife, Alison Grisham. Together they live in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where he is pursuing script writing. This is the first piece he has submitted for review.



Logline: 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.


Bio: Kristen Bobst is a Los Angeles-based ghostwriter and freelance new media writer. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California’s Writing for Screen and Television MFA program, and she also has degrees from the University of Florida and Trinity College, Dublin. Kristen has co-written environmental-educational mobile apps for children and is the founder of production company popKraken, a creative initiative whose purpose is to bring whimsy to life.



Logline: 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.


Bio: Sam Ruano hails from Montreal, Canada where he earned his BFA in Film Production at Concordia University, going on to become a videographer on Discovery Travel’s “Exploring Horizons” in the wilds of Latin America. He’s an alumnus of the Canadian Film Centre’s Prime Time Television Writing program and has written for such shows as CBC’s “Little Mosque On The Prairie”, HBO Canada’s award winning “Call Me Fitz” and Showcase’s cult favorite “Lost Girl”. Most recently, he worked as a story editor on the Syfy drama “Killjoys.” Sam can often be found daydreaming behind a comic book and a dirty martini.



Logline: 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.


Bio: Judy Wu believes that a little creativity and engineering savvy goes a long way. Her studies in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT lead to various experiences working in artificial intelligence, telecommunications, digital media and ecommerce.  What started as a fun television side project became a determination to encourage young women to pursue engineering.  She hopes to inspire them to question and break free of the stereotypes about women in engineering. In her spare time, she enjoys aspiring to be a master chef, watching movies and TV, traveling the world, listening to music, running and trying new things.



Logline: 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.


Bio: Daniel Wright is an aspiring writer living in Brisbane, Australia.  He graduated from the University of Queensland with degrees in Biomedical Science and Psychology, and is currently working as a software tester. Daniel writes in many different genres, with a tendency toward action, thriller, science fiction, and urban fantasy. His story topics range from time-travelling thieves, to magical druids in Central Park, to revolutions played out through social media. He enjoys exploring the impact of the fantastical on a mundane world. When not writing or watching TV, he enjoys reading and playing video games. Isabelle.exe is his first foray into writing for TV.



The five winners will develop pilot screenplays by the end of 2015, under the mentorship of top Hollywood producers. In partnership with Creative Artists Agency (CAA), the nation’s top Hollywood talent agency, resulting scripts will be packaged for possible sale to major networks and distributors.


In addition, the five winners have all been invited to attend the Conrad Foundation’s (named after the Apollo 12 astronaut Pete Conrad) Spirit of

The result was “The Next MacGyver” competition launched during National Engineers Week, February 2015 in partnership with the National Academy of Engineering and Lee Zlotoff, the creator of MacGyver. Thirty years after MacGyver first aired, the global contest challenged entrants to create a TV series with a female main character, who, like MacGyver, would use her engineering powers to win the day. All genres were allowed drama, comedy, science fiction, action, etc. with an eye toward a potential female middle and high school audience.


Said Zlotoff: “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.’”


The result was arguably the most ambitious marriage between Hollywood and engineering in recent memory. Top television producers like Roberto Orci (Star Trek), Lori McCreary (Madame Secretary), Anthony Zuiker (CSI creator), Clayton Krueger (3001: The Final Odyssey) and America Ferrera (Ugly Betty actress) joined the movement and offered to mentor the winners. Google, Ford and the United Engineering Foundation sponsored the project, with the added support of Megan Smith, chief technology officer of the United States and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

finalists shared their TV concepts. “The Next MacGyver” characters included an engineering prodigy who becomes an expert witness in torn-from-the-headlines cases, a new Disney Imagineer who makes our dreams come true, a heartbroken World War II engineer fighting the Axis Powers, and a fashion designer turned materials engineer in a world where “our computers are in our clothes.”

receive an engineering mentor a relevant domain expert that will lend scientific expertise and credibility.


Said Yortsos, “Even though the odds of launching a successful TV show are long, we have no other option but to try, and try hard, that avenue. Changing the conversation about engineering is a necessity, particularly for growing the economy. By engaging our whole society in STEM, we increase our innovation capacity through the diversity of thought and ideas … Today’s world is driven by intellectual property generation, and engineering is right in the middle of it.”


“The truth is,” Yortsos added, “television is and has been one of the most powerful agents in changing a culture. Consider what The West Wing has done for public policy, what CSI has done for forensics science we have a good sense of the power of this medium to influence human behavior.”


With more Fortune 500 CEOs with engineering degrees than business, finance or law, and engineers being asked to solve humanity’s most pressing problems, the stakes, perhaps, have never been higher. For Maja Matarić, USC Viterbi’s vice dean of research, one of the “Next MacGyver” judges, and an engineer who has pioneered the field of socially assistive robotics, the stakes are very clear.


“Would you consider yourself successful if you failed to reach half of your potential or use half of your leverage?” asked Matarić. “That’s what we’re doing when we are failing to engage half of our population, girls and women, in STEM. There are nearly 320 million Americans and slightly over half of them are female. Just think how many new ideas, patents, inventions and breakthroughs we miss out on by not engaging that talent pool. Beyond just the numbers, we miss out on the diversity of thought, ideas and perspectives, and we need all those thoughts, ideas and perspectives to create a future that is good for everyone.”

Finally, on July 28, 12 finalists took the stage at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills. Before an audience of TV executives, agents, STEM leaders, journalists, Los Angeles middle and high school students, and a prestigious panel of Hollywood and engineering judges, the


Innovation Challenge Summit in April 2016 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This is an annual multiphase competition empowering high school students (ages 13–18) from across the globe to use STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), innovation and entrepreneurship to develop technologies and solutions to solve real-world challenges in sustainability.

This was the conversation in the 1950s hit TV series Father Knows Best, culminating with Betty’s decision to abandon her dreams as an engineer.


Sixty years later, with the share of female engineering graduates falling to 19 percent nationally, the USC Viterbi School of Engineering decided to help change that conversation. The objective: explode a few stereotypes about engineers — who they are, what they do, what they look like, how they affect our lives.


“What better agent for this change,” said Yannis C. Yortsos, dean of USC Viterbi, “than Hollywood and its magic of storytelling?”

“I am going to be,” exclaims Betty, “an engineer!”


“Do you realize engineering schools are some of the toughest to get into?” says her father, Jim.


“So, you think I should give up a thing just because it’s difficult?” responds Betty.


“Well, no, but,” Jim falters.


“You’re a girl,” breaks in her mother, Margaret, “that’s the main thing.”



Five months after the crowdsourcing competition began, five winners received trophies MacGyver-branded duct tape a $5,000 award, and most significantly, Hollywood producer mentors excited to develop a viable pilot screenplay. In addition, each of the five winners will

“I am going to be,” exclaims Betty, “an engineer!”


“Do you realize engineering schools are some of the toughest to get into?” says her father, Jim.


“So, you think I should give up a thing just because it’s difficult?” responds Betty.


“Well, no, but,” Jim falters.


“You’re a girl,” breaks in her mother, Margaret, “that’s the main thing.”