A New TV Series Will Feature a Woman Engineer as its Main Character

Hollywood is down to five scripts—which would you choose?

4 August 2015

The creator of the MacGyver TV series (1985 to 1992), which was about a secret agent who used his engineering skills to solve cases, is looking to develop a new TV series. Only this time, he and a few others want the main character to be a woman engineer.

Lee Zlotoff partnered with the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering, and the MacGyver Foundation, to run a contest looking for scripts of a woman protagonist who uses her technical smarts to solve problems. According to the competition website, Zlotoff says: “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.’” He now wants to inspire young women to join the field as well.

They’ve selected these five finalists, and we’d like you to weigh in on which one of their scripts you think is the best idea for a show. You can also watch them pitch their ideas at www.TheNextMacGayver.com

  • Shanee Edwards: Ada and the Machine

    With a master’s degree in screenwriting from the University of California, Los Angeles, Edwards is a film critic and has also produced the Web series She Blinded Me w Science to encourage young girls to explore science and technology. Her script is set in England in 1832 when 17-year-old Ada Lovelace, the famous mathematician, meets Charlie Babbage, the first computer engineer. Lovelace creates logarithms, a means to simplify calculations, and programs Babbage’s new calculating machine. Together, they find themselves on an adventure during the Steampunk-era, a time when people were captivated by the idea of a super machine that could be programmed to think like a human.

  • Beth Keser: Rule 702

    The IEEE senior member has more than 17 years of experience working in the semiconductor industry, and is currently leading the Low-Cost Device Assembly Technology Initiative at Qualcomm, in San Diego. Her storyline features a young engineering prodigy who decides to forego corporate life to pursue a career as an expert witness, a person who is permitted to testify at a trial because of special knowledge or proficiency in a field specific to the case. The main character travels the United States to testify in various criminal cases, and finds each one has its own mystery to unravel. Only someone with scientific knowledge like hers can uncover the truth.

  • Jade Lovell: SECs (Science and Engineering Clubs)

    A STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) communicator for the New York Hall of Science, in New York City, with a background in neuroscience, Lovell has a Web show Did Someone Say Science? on YouTube Spaces, and produced videos for organizations such as NASA and publications including Scientific American. Her script is a dramatic comedy about a popular high school girl who is forced to join the Science and Engineering Club in order to avoid being expelled. With what she describes as a “Glee meets Mean Girls” premise—both of which depict high school culture—the main character helps the club achieve its dreams of placing first at FIRST, the global science and technology competition for teens.

  • Craig Motlong: Q Branch

    A creative director at an advertising agency in Seattle, Motlong grew up playing with tinker toys and has always been fascinated by technology. (His two preschoolers are already learning to code.) Motlong’s script is about a woman engineer who invents gadgets for spies to use on dangerous missions. The devices include laser pens and gas pellets hidden in watches.

  • Miranda Sajdak: Riveting

    A film and TV writer, producer, and director living in Los Angeles, Sajdak has worked on blockbuster movies including Final Destination, and the television show My So-Called Life. Her script is set during World War II in which a prom queen’s life is turned upside down when her fiancé is killed. Determined to do her part, she gets a job as an engineer, perfecting her skills to help out in the war effort.


    The judges who selected these final scripts included IEEE Member Limor Fried, founder of DIY electronics company Adafruit Industries; IEEE Fellow Maja J. Matarić, vice dean for research at the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering, in Los Angeles; and Debbie Sterling, founder of GoldieBlox, a line of engineering toys for girls.

    From Hollywood, judges included actress America Ferrera, star of the TV show Ugly Betty and the movie Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, as well as Roberto Orci, the writer and producer of Star Trek 3.

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