USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the National Academy of Engineering Announce 12 Finalists of ‘The Next MacGyver’ Competition For New TV Series Starring a Female Engineer; The Paley Center for Media to Co-Present and Host a Special Live Pitch Event With Hollywood Producers and Leading Engineers on July 28 in Beverly Hills

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USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the National Academy of Engineering

Announce 12 Finalists of ‘The Next MacGyver’ Competition

For New TV Series Starring a Female Engineer


The Paley Center for Media to Co-Present and Host a Special Live Pitch Event

With Hollywood Producers and Leading Engineers on July 28 in Beverly Hills



LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – July 8, 2015 – The USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the National Academy of Engineering announced today the 12 finalists for “The Next MacGyver” competition. Created to introduce a new iconic TV series starring a female engineer and developed in conjunction with MacGyver creator Lee Zlotoff and The MacGyver Foundation, the contest drew nearly 2,000 entries worldwide in just over two months. The aim of the competition is to leverage television as a tool for introducing people to the field of engineering and to increase the number of women who decide to pursue degrees and careers in engineering.


The finalists hail from as far away as Australia and include practitioners and scholars in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, seasoned and first-time writers, students, and an Internet personality. Show concepts include: science fiction thriller, comedy, classic spy, historical, and interactive crime drama.


The Paley Center for Media will co-present and host the finale event of the contest on July 28, beginning at 2 p.m. PDT at its Beverly Hills location. During the event, the 12 finalists will present their show ideas along with concept art before an esteemed panel of judges.  Five winners will earn the rare opportunity to be mentored by successful Hollywood TV producers and engineering experts in developing their pilot scripts, in addition to receiving a prize of $5,000 each. The live event will be sponsored by the United Engineering Foundation, Google, and the Ford Motor Company.


A special panel session “From Script to Screen,” illuminating the process of taking a TV show concept from idea to pilot, will take place during the event while the judges are deliberating. Bloomberg Associates’ Katherine Oliver will moderate the panel, which includes: Ann Blanchard (CAA), Marci Cooperstein (ABC Family), Danielle Feinberg (Pixar Animation Studios), and Ann Merchant (Science and Entertainment Exchange). The event emcee will be Julie Ann Crommett, who leads Google’s efforts to improve the perception of computer science and engineering in media.


“The Next MacGyver” finalists are:


Kristen Bobst Marina Del Rey, California Drama / Procedural Doctor Tailor
Wesley Burger Long Beach, California Comedy Imagineers
Shane Courtney Fayetteville, Arkansas Sci-Fi / Drama Kansas
Shanee Edwards Culver City, California Historical / Steampunk Ada and the Machine
Beth Keser San Diego, California Adventure / Procedural Rule 702.
Jayde Lovell New York, New York Comedy / Drama SECs (Science and Engineering Clubs)
Craig Motlong Seattle, Washington Spy / Action Q Branch
Nao Murakami Seattle, Washington Sci-Fi / Crime Drama The Mind
Sam Ruano Ontario, Canada Drama / Procedural Enhanced
Miranda Sajdak Los Angeles, California Historical Drama Riveting
Daniel Wright Queensland, Australia Science Fiction / Drama Isabelle.exe
Judy Wu San Mateo, California Interactive Crime Drama @Gnosis


For additional details on the finalists, their story concepts, and concept art, please visit: or



The judges and mentors* for this competition are:


  • Wanda Austin, Aerospace Corporation president and CEO; member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology
  • Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
  • America Ferrera*, actress/producer (Ugly Betty, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants)
  • Clayton Krueger*, senior vice president of television at Scott Free Productions (3001: The Final Odyssey)
  • Maja J. Matarić, professor and Chan Soon-Shiong Chair in Computer Science, Neuroscience, and Pediatrics; vice dean for research at USC Viterbi School of Engineering
  • Lori McCreary*, CEO and founder of Revelations Entertainment; president of Producer’s Guild of America (Madam Secretary, Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman)
  • Gabrielle Neimand*, head of Take Fountain Productions; producer (The Last Exorcism, The Thing)
  • Roberto Orci*, writer/producer (Star Trek, Scorpion, Sleepy Hollow, Hawaii Five-O, Fringe)
  • Debbie Sterling, founder and CEO of GoldieBlox
  • Valerie Weiss, biophysicist; founder, PhD Productions
  • Lee Zlotoff, MacGyver creator
  • Anthony E. Zuiker*, creator and executive producer of the CSI franchise, including CSI: Cyber


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The USC Viterbi School of Engineering

Consistently ranked among the nation’s top 10 graduate schools of engineering, USC Viterbi — situated in the nation’s entertainment capital in Los Angeles — has enjoyed close ties to the film and television industry, as well as its fellow USC School of Cinematic Arts, the nation’s #1 cinema program. USC Viterbi’s own interdisciplinary work with USC Cinema include the nation’s top video games program (USC Games) and the USC Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT), a U.S. Army-funded research center that has resulted in cutting-edge work in virtual humans and motion capture technologies, including the Oscar-winning visual effects of films like “Avatar,” “Spiderman 2” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” USC Viterbi is also home of the Integrated Media Systems Center (IMSC), a NSF-supported Engineering Research Center at the crossroads of media, entertainment, and engineering.


The National Academy of Engineering

The mission of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) 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 of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, an independent, nonprofit organization chartered by Congress to provide objective analysis and advice to the nation on matters of science, technology, and health.


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, non-violence, and sustainability to improve people’s lives.


Lee Zlotoff

Lee Zlotoff is an award-winning writer, producer, and director of film and television. Among his more than 100 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.


The Paley Center for Media

The Paley Center for Media, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with locations in New York and Los Angeles, leads the discussion about the cultural, creative, and social significance of television, radio, and emerging platforms for the professional community and media-interested public. Drawing upon its curatorial expertise, an international collection, and close relationships with the leaders of the media community, the Paley Center examines the intersections between media and society. The general public can access the collection and participate in programs that explore and celebrate the creativity, the innovations, the personalities, and the leaders who are shaping media. Through the global programs of its Media Council and International Council, the Paley Center also serves as a neutral setting where media professionals can engage in discussion and debate about the evolving media landscape. Previously known as The Museum of Television & Radio, the Paley Center was founded in 1975 by William S. Paley, a pioneering innovator in the industry. For more information, please visit

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