So, do the ideas have to be similar to MacGyver?

Not at all. As long as the submission criteria are met, a diverse assembly of ideas are welcome and expected. This can be drama, action, sci-fi, comedy, etc. MacGyver is merely an initial point of reference, as it was a hit show that excited young kids to engineering.

I’d like to enter, but I frankly have no idea what an engineer is or does.

We’re glad to help. First of all, see our Resources page to get a taste of what engineers have done and what they are capable of.

There’s a famous quote by Theodore von Karman that pretty much sums up engineering:

“Scientists study the world that is; engineers create the world that never was.”

Here’s a short list of why we think engineers make compelling characters:

  • Virtually everything around you in the world (from cars to buildings to robots to medical devices to toys to movies to cities to the Internet) would not exist, save by engineers. Just close your eyes for a moment and imagine all of modern life disappearing.
  • Few professions are so actively engaged in solving all the world’s problems. Some, like medicine or education, might focus on critical areas of the world’s problems. Engineers, in contrast, are trying to solve just about everything. They’re saving the world in so many different ways, they had to create a top 14 list to start organizing them all.
  • Engineers aren’t just guys like Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk (an inspiration for the Iron Man films); they are leading America’s Fortune 500 companies. In fact, a recent study by “Route to the Top” showed that more chief executive officers majored in engineering – not marketing, not finance, and not law – than any other discipline. Nearly a third of all Fortune 500 CEOs cited an undergraduate degree in engineering.
  • Engineers aren’t just people who imagine and build things that don’t exist. They think differently. Like Dr. Gregory House on House or Olivia Pope on Scandal, they have a unique way of breaking down problems and solving them. See here for a unique example of this in high school sports.
  • The incredible diversity of problems that engineers are trying to solve is breathtaking. From couples’ therapy to the NBA to restoring sight to the blind to creating robot insects that might pursue terrorist cells in the caves of Afghanistan, engineers are tackling nearly every form of human endeavor.

If I win, do you own the resulting script? Who owns the rights?

No, you will retain all the rights to your work. This competition is just a vehicle to get your script into the right hands. Once your script is sold, you keep all the profits.

Other than MacGyver, what are some examples of engineers that have already been depicted in popular fiction?

Why are you focusing a competition around engineering?

Despite numerous efforts by various organizations to heighten awareness about the roles of engineering, data shows that the general public has very little understanding of what engineering is or what engineers do to help meet societal needs and advance the nation’s welfare.

A recent study by The Geena Davis Institute on Gender, which analyzed speaking characters in popular media, the nature of those portrayals, and the occupational pursuits of the characters, found that characters “are most likely to be depicted working in the life/physical sciences than in other STEM careers in family films and prime-time shows” and “not one female engineer or mathematician is shown across the sample of working prime-time characters.” Former Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine has been arguing since the early 1990s, when the TV show L.A. Law was a hit, about the need for a “LA Engineer” TV show. The last prime-time show that came close, MacGyver, was airing at around the same time but the lead character wasn’t referred to as an engineer, he only acted like one. It’s time to make a show airing on a regular basis that clearly shows compelling engineer characters making positive impacts.

Given that only 4.5 percent of American students receive degrees in engineering, compared to 14 percent in Europe or 21 percent in Asia, the time has never been better to recast the image and possibilities of the modern engineer.

Who can I contact for questions?

All questions can be e-mailed to info@thenextmacgyver.com.