The Next MacGyver Competition, LA

The Next MacGyver Competition Mentors | Photo: The Paley Center for Media
Affair: The Next MacGyver Competition

When: Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Hot Spot: The Paley Center for Media, Los Angeles, CA

Deets: The five winners of the “The Next MacGyver” competition, a global crowdsourcing initiative to inspire greater interest in the field of engineering by challenging contestants to create a TV series with a female engineer protagonist, were announced today by MacGyver creator Lee Zlotoff, with the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the National Academy of Engineering during an exciting live pitch event co-presented with The Paley Center for Media. Each of the winners received $5,000 and was paired with a successful Hollywood TV producer who will mentor them in creating an original TV pilot script. Expert engineers will also be involved in helping to develop the engineering-focused storylines.

Julie Ann Crommett, who leads Google’s efforts to improve the perception of computer science and engineering in media, emceed the event. Judges and mentors included: Wanda Austin (Aerospace Corporation), Madeline Di Nonno (Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media), America Ferrera (Ugly Betty), Clayton Krueger (Scott Free Productions), Maja J. Matarić (USC Viterbi School of Engineering), Tracy Mercer (Revelations Entertainment), Gabrielle Neimand (Take Fountain Productions), Roberto Orci (Star Trek), Debbie Sterling (GoldieBlox), Valerie Weiss (PhD Productions), Lee Zlotoff (MacGyver creator), and Anthony E. Zuiker (CSI franchise).

During the judges deliberation, Bloomberg Associates’s Katherine Oliver took the stage to moderate a lively panel discussion on the process of taking a TV show concept from idea to pilot with the following panelists: Ann Blanchard (CAA), Marci Cooperstein (ABC Family), Danielle Feinberg (Pixar Animation Studios), and Ann Merchant (Science and Entertainment Exchange).

The United Engineering Foundation, Google, and the Ford Motor Company sponsored the event.

The five winners, together with their mentors, are:

Name: Beth Keser
Mentor(s): Lori McCreary, CEO and Founder of Revelations Entertainment; President of Producer’s Guild of America (Madam Secretary, Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman); Tracy Mercer, VP of Development, Revelations Entertainment
TV Concept Title: Rule 702

Name: Jayde Lovell
Mentor(s): Roberto Orci, Writer/Producer (Star Trek, Scorpion, Sleepy Hollow, Hawaii Five-O, Fringe)
TV Concept Title: SECs (Science and Engineering Clubs)

Name: Miranda Sajdak
Mentor(s): Clayton Krueger, Senior Vice President of Television, Scott Free Productions (3001: The Final Odyssey)
TV Concept Title: Riveting

Name: Craig Motlong
Mentor(s): Anthony E. Zuiker, creator and executive producer of the CSI franchise
TV Concept Title: Q Branch
TV Concept Artwork: Q Branch_Matthew Zikry.jpg

Name: Shanee Edwards
Mentor(s): America Ferrera, actress/producer (Ugly Betty, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants); Gabrielle Neimand, Take Fountain Productions
TV Concept Title: Ada and the Machine

*The engineer mentors are TBC.

Yannis C. Yortsos, dean of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, said, “We hope that ‘The Next MacGyver’ will help change the conversation about engineering, break down stereotypes and attract young women of all backgrounds to engineering and science.”

“The Grand Challenges for Engineering in this century, some of which will be necessary for our planet’s survival, will only be solved if we can attract a diverse pool of bright people to engineering,” said NAE executive officer Al Romig. “Hollywood can play a major role in changing negative stereotypes and helping young people imagine themselves as engineers.”

The competition was inspired by the hugely successful “MacGyver” series, launched 30 years ago in 1985, which 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 Lee Zlotoff, creator of the series.

Spotted: Wanda Austin, Madeline Di Nonno, America Ferrera, Clayton Krueger, Maja J. Matarić, Tracy Mercer, Gabrielle Neimand, Roberto Orci, Debbie Sterling, Valerie Weiss, Lee Zlotoff, Anthony E. Zuiker

Hint For The Average Socialite: Details on all twelve of the finalists, including their story concepts, and concept art can be found at

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