Will the Next MacGyver Be a Girl?
As a kid I loved watching the TV show “MacGyver.” What’s more amazing than watching a guy run around the world, saving legions of people from peril using Duck-Tape, bubble gum, a rubber band, and a paperclip? As a girl, I couldn’t imagine being able to channel the powers of engineering in such as way. Probably didn’t help that the women on the show were typically relegated to the role of “lady in distress,” often hog-tied and screaming next to a ticking time bomb.
Let’s face it; we have lived in a world in which there is a stereotypical belief that women are somehow inherently worse at math and science than boys, a belief that is increasingly affecting girl’s self-confidence with respect to these fields. Studies, however, counter this belief, showing that girls perform as well or better than boys at math and science through elementary and middle school.
Combating gender bias in STEM
Identifying that girls are prone to this stereotype at a young age, Maja Matarić, Vice Dean for Research at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and one of Business Insider’s 25 most powerful women engineers, has been actively involved in K-12 educational outreach to engage young females’ interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) topics.
With Matarić’s involvement, USC Viterbi has been a leader in STEM outreach in Los Angeles for decades with young females in mind. Proof of their success in these efforts is the fact that the entering freshman class is 37 percent female, which is almost double the national average.
Finding the next MacGyver
Imagine a world—or at least a world on TV—in which a woman was kicking butt and battling badness with just her problem-solving skills, engineering prowess and perhaps a nice pair of tweezers? Good news on that front.
Extending its mission to further inspire females into the field, The University of Southern California (USC) is launching a global crowdsourcing competition called “The Next MacGvyer,” aimed at developing the first TV show with a female engineer lead. The creator of the original MacGyver, Lee Zlotoff, is using the competition to scout for ideas for a TV show that will feature female engineers who use their powers of engineering to solve problems.
The crowdsourced competition was created through a partnership between the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, the MacGyver Foundation, and Zlotoff, a film and TV writer, producer and director.
The top five winners will each be paired with industry mentors, dependent upon the topic areas of their stories, as well as $5,000 awards. The competition’s top 12 finalists will compete at the capstone event in the summer of 2015. Certain rules apply. Those interested in entering The Next MacGyver competition can submit here.
Girls putting SOLIDWORKS to Work
In another effort to reach out to future female engineers, a new series of toys, called GoldieBlox, are hitting store shelves with the hope of encouraging girls to channel their inner “MacGyver.” This line of toys and books let girls design things, make mistakes, create better solutions, and most importantly, have fun.
The brains behind the idea for GoldieBlox are engineers Alice Brooks and Bettina Chen, who used SOLIDWORKS software to design the construction toy with a strong focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) principles. Read more about GoldieBlox here.
Two more enterprising young female engineers putting SOLIDWORKS to work are Dartmouth students Shinri Kamei and Krystyna, who used the software to design a project for their engineering class. The end result is Tray Bien, an ergonomic tray using six slotted holes on the perimeter to carry wine and pint glasses with room for dishes in the middle.
The product not only won Dartmouth’s Phillip R. Jackson Engineering Sciences Prize, but the dynamic duo also applied for a patent, successfully launched a Kickstarter campaign that was 200 percent funded, and have now partnered with a foodservice supply distributor to manufacture it. Read more about Tray Bien here.
SOLIDWORKS Recognizes Women in Engineering
SOLIDWORKS is very involved in encouraging young girls to pursue STEM fields. Marie Planchard, director of Education Portfolio at SOLIDWORKS, travels the world looking for the best and the brightest young people who are busy creating amazing things using their engineering know-how and SOLIDWORKS software.
The SOLIDWORKS Women in Engineering (WIE) Program was created to recognize the outstanding achievements being made every day by women in the engineering field. Every month the program recognizes one woman who demonstrates leadership, innovative accomplishments, and outstanding contributions to the engineering field and/or community.
Do you know of a standout female engineer that you’d like to nominate for some well-deserved recognition? Check out the WIE page here for information about the program and ways to nominate a deserving candidate.