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HOLLYWOOD AND engineering organizations have teamed up with a neat project: Five aspiring screenwriters are developing TV pilots of series starring female heroes of science. The Next MacGyver competition is sponsored by the United Engineering Foundation, a joint venture of engineering societies, and the MacGyver Foundation.
As you may recall, Angus MacGyver was a TV adventurer, 1985-1992, who showed great troubleshooting skills with nothing more than everyday objects and a little science. A “macgyver” came to describe such exemplary scientific resourcefulness.
Initial submissions for the Next MacGyver were winnowed down to 12, out of which the five grant winners were selected. Each of the 12 submitted a 10-page treatment of a pilot script along with concept art. Each of the five selected receives a $5000 grant and an assigned Hollywood professional as mentor.
Also, Science magazine, published weekly by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, offered its readers opportunity to vote for their favorites. Here are the five grant winners, their titles listed alphabetically, with pilot pitches, mentors and AAAS Science reader vote percentages.
Ada and the Machine. Proposed by writer Shanee Edwards, this historical steampunk adventure is based on a true story: Ada Lovelace, daughter of English poet Byron, was also a mathematician and colleague of Charles Babbage, renowned for his Difference Engine and Analytical Engine calculating machines. Edwards’ mentor is Gabrielle Neimand, of Take Fountain Productions. AAAS reader vote: 23 percent.
Q Branch. Proposed by advertising creative director Craig Motlong, this action thriller follows the adventures of a woman who goes undercover inventing the gadgets used by her spy colleagues. Anthony E. Zucker, of CSI fame, is mentor. AAAS reader vote: 33%, the plurality winner.
Riveting. Proposed by writer Miranda Sajdak, this WWII drama’s backstory is a prom queen whose fiancé is killed in action. Her engineering expertise subsequently helps the war effort. Sajdak’s mentor is Clayton Krueger, of The Final Odyssey. AAAS reader vote: 10%.
Rule 702. Proposed by Qualcomm engineer Beth Keser, this adventure/procedural details the work of an expert witness who encounters mystery with every engineering assignment. Lori McCreary, of Madame Secretary, is Keser’s mentor. AAAS reader vote: 27 percent.
SECs (Science and Engineering Clubs). Proposed by Jayde Lovell, creator of YouTube’s “Did Someone Say Science?,” this one is described as Glee meets Mean Girls, with science embedded in each episode. Roberto Orci, of Star Trek and Scorpion, is mentor. AAAS reader vote: 6 percent.
A couple of observations: The top vote getter, Q Branch, reminds me of Helen Mirren’s wonderful role as Victoria Winslow in Red (Special Edition) and Red 2. She’s great with all the spy gadgetry, proves the gentle sex isn’t gentle, but still sexy, and represents us older folks with aplomb.
My favorite proposal here is Ada and the Machine. I enjoy the steampunk genre. And I’m a real fan of Ada. Years ago, daughter Suz got me an Ada Lovelace tee-shirt, which I wear proudly and explain to one and all how she was the world’s first computer programmer.
Also, I am utterly delighted in reading Sydney Padua’s graphic novel, The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage. It’s sort of manga for the intellectually curious, illustrated in comic format and filled with footnotes that give historical, mathematical and computer-scientific perspective. Plus, Padua has a great sense of humor that erupts on every page.
I wish Ada and the Machine as much TV success as Padua’s literary endeavor. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2015