Viterbi collaborates with Hollywood

first_imgThe Viterbi School of Engineering is collaborating with the National Academy of Engineering, an elected group of the world’s most accomplished engineers, for a worldwide crowdsourcing competition to cast a female engineer for the new MacGyver TV show. The show hopes to inspire more women to pursue engineering.MacGyver, created by Lee Zlotoff, was launched 30 years ago and follows the adventures of a fictional government agent Angus MacGyver, who resourcefully uses his engineering skills to solve problems in each episode.“I was intrigued and excited when the USC Viterbi School of Engineering first suggested the idea of a script competition to help create a new, female engineer-type character for TV,” Zlotoff wrote in an email to the Daily Trojan. “And I was pleased that we could use the name and example of MacGyver to help make this competition a reality.”Adam Smith, the senior manager of communications and marketing at Viterbi and the primary coordinator of this project, said that Hollywood and engineering should be working together to motivate more students to pursue engineering.“This idea of marriage between engineering and Hollywood has been around for a long time,” Smith said. “Andrew Viterbi wrote about how we can use this to elevate engineering to a higher status.”Dan Mote, the president of the National Academy of Engineering, agrees with Smith on the alliance of engineering and Hollywood, emphasizing the importance of exciting women about the prospect of a profession in engineering.“‘The Next MacGyver’ search competition is an opportunity that hits the bull’s eye twice for engineering,” wrote Mote in an email to the Daily Trojan. “First, the program lead is a female engineer who will inspire young women to think about engineering as a career. Second, it provides the public a program on engineering and what engineers do.”Smith said he and his team came up with this idea of reaching out to the National Academy of Engineering for a global competition in 2013, and they wanted to make female engineers the focus. In fall 2014, they received a grant from the United Engineering Foundation.Smith believes that they will be able to inspire more women to pursue engineering through this project.“In terms of changing a national culture, it requires a big catalyst, and we believe that TV and popular culture have a big play in that,” Smith said.He explained that television is filled with problems and conflicts, and engineers are great at finding solutions to solve these.Viterbi student organizations have made efforts to encourage local young women to pursue engineering majors.“In terms of current efforts, this Thursday, the local chapter of Society of Women Engineers and Women in Engineering are hosting an [all-day] workshop for young women in the community,” Smith said.As part of Engineers’ Week, “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day,” co-hosted by the Association for Computing Machinery, hopes to inspire the next generation of female engineers by introducing the girls to circuits using Circuit Scribe, a rollerball pen that writes with conductive silver ink, while also teaching them about the process of problem-solving and invention.Smith said Dean Yannis C. Yortsos considers the diversity at Viterbi a great accomplishment, citing that of the entering class 37 percent are women, which is double the national average. Additionally, 25 percent of the computer science majors are women.“I think it’s great to see more female leaders in the engineering community and it shows, perhaps maybe more to younger people who are thinking about going into engineering, that women can be engineers as well and it’s just not a male dominated field,” said Morelle Arian, a senior majoring in electrical engineering.“While there has been some debate about whether our country needs more engineers, one thing is certain: engineering needs more women,” Randy Atkins, the senior media relations officer at the National Academy of Engineering, wrote in an email statement to the Daily Trojan. “While more than half the talent pool seems generally turned off by the thought of becoming an engineer, it’s likely most kids don’t even know what an engineer does. Considering that engineers will be key to tackling the [grand challenges] of the 21st century, this is very troubling.”Daisy Leon-Rivera, a junior majoring in biomedical engineering, said she watched [the children’s show] Cyber Chase growing up because she enjoyed the problem-solving techniques and math the characters used.“I think this is a great opportunity to inspire the next generation of … engineers of the future, and I hope it becomes the next big culture,” Leon-Rivera said.Mentors, including Anthony Zuiker, the creator of the CSI franchise, and Roberto Orci, the writer and producer of Sleepy Hollow, will be paired with the finalists.“Now that we’ve launched and have begun to witness the overwhelmingly positive response to this project, I’m even more excited to see what kinds of concepts and scripts the world has in store for us all,” Zlotoff said.By creating a national marketing campaign, Smith said he hopes to raise the profile of women in engineering.“There is an entire generation of great storytellers, and we want them to think of writing female engineering characters. Because if you see strong female engineers, it’s easier to imagine yourself [as] one,” Smith said.last_img

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