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USC Is Searching for the Next Female MacGyver

As any women who ever asked her mid-1990s hairstylist for “The Rachel” haircut knows all too well, television has the power to inspire its viewers. And not just in terms of beauty and fashion trends, but in an intellectual capacity as well. Just as the CSI franchise has increased the interest in forensic careers and Breaking Bad inspired a new generation of would-be scientists, MacGyver did the same for engineering in its 1980s heyday. After all, who wouldn’t want to know how to escape from the clutches of a couple of mob guys with nothing more than a fire hose and a trusty Swiss army knife?

“I literally could not tell you how many times people have come up to me and said, ‘I became an engineer, or I went into the sciences because of MacGyver,’” says Lee Zlotoff, the show’s creator. Which gave the folks at USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering an idea: If there’s no current on-screen hero encouraging the next wave of great engineers, why not create one? And why not make this MacGyver a missus?

That’s the idea behind “The Next MacGyver” project, an online competition aimed squarely at engineering television’s next great problem-solver. The process is simple: Entrants (which can be a team of people) must submit a handful of key details about the proposed series—including a title, logline, pilot episode synopsis, and description of the “new” Mrs. MacGyver—by May 1, 2015. From there, the competition’s crack team of judges will whittle the competition down to their 12 favorite ideas, whose creators will square off this summer in a pitching event, with five winners emerging victorious.

"We’re not looking to reboot the MacGyver franchise or bring back guys with mullets," state the contest's creators. "We are asking: 'Can you out-MacGyver MacGyver?' Can you imagine that next female hero that will inspire a generation of young women to see themselves as engineers?" In addition to USC and Zlotoff, the National Academy of Engineering and The MacGyver Foundation are the contest's main partners.

While there’s no guarantee that the proposed show will get made, “The Next MacGyver” crew will prep its winners to find success as best they can, both with a $5000 prize and by pairing them with two mentors—one engineer who specializes in the field in which the imagined protagonist operates and one veteran Hollywood producer. Producers Roberto Orci (Star Trek, Fringe), Lori McCreary (Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman), Clayton Krueger (3001: The Final Odyssey), and CSI creator Anthony Zuiker are among the pros who have already signed on as mentors.

Now they just need The Next MacGyver (feathered hair optional).

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U2’s 360-Degree Tour Stage Will Become a Utah Aquarium Attraction
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The immense stage that accompanied U2 on the band’s 360° Tour from 2009 to 2011 is getting an unexpected second life as a Utah educational attraction. It will soon be installed over a new plaza at the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium outside Salt Lake City.

The Claw, a 165-foot-tall structure shaped like a large spaceship balanced on four legs—a design inspired by the space-age Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport—was built to house a massive speaker system and cylindrical video screen for the band’s performances. Underneath it, a 360° stage allowed U2 to play to audiences surrounding the structure in all directions. To make it easier to tour 30 different countries with the elaborate system, which took more than a week to put together at each concert location, the band had several versions built.

U2 and its management have been looking for a buyer for the 190-ton structures since the tour ended in 2011, and it seems they have finally found a home for one of them. One of the two remaining Claw structures is coming to the Utah aquarium, where it’s being installed as part of a plaza at the institution’s new, 9-acre Science Learning Campus.

A four-legged, industrial-looking video-and-sound-projection rig rises over a crowd at a concert
The Claw at a Dublin concert in 2009
Kristian Strøbech, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

As the only Claw in the U.S., the alien-looking feat of engineering will be "preserved and sustainably repurposed as a Utah landmark and symbol of science exploration and learning," according to the aquarium's press release. As part of the expansion project, the 2300-square-foot stage system will play host to festivals, movies, and other special events in two venues, one with 7000 seats and the other with 350.

The $25 million Science Learning Campus hasn’t been built yet—construction is starting this fall—so you’ll have to wait awhile to relive your U2 concert experience at the aquarium.

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Students Build a Machine to Study the Weak Ankles of Michelangelo’s 'David'
Yale University, YouTube
Yale University, YouTube

Michelangelo's David, perhaps the world's most famous Renaissance sculpture, looks good for a 514-year-old, but that doesn't mean he hasn't been subjected to the indignities of aging. In the case of this particular marble statue, the issue is one of posture—over the years, he has started tilting forward, causing his ankles to crack. As a result, in a few centuries, David could topple completely.

At Yale University, engineering students and the university's Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage have been studying the effects of gravity on the statue in the hopes of one day coming up with a technique to stop him from falling.

A close-up image of 'David's' foot
Franco Origlia, Getty Images

The students built a machine called the Force Relay Exertion Device to imitate the stress of gravity on David's ankles over time. They built step-shaped models to mimic the angle and pressure on his ankles, using concrete, clay, and other materials to study how different media will hold up. They placed those models within the machine, applying pressure until the fake ankles broke into pieces. From that point the team could gauge what kind of force and time lapse would cause the ankles to crack.

The students didn't solve David's issues in the half-semester they spent studying the statue, but the machine they built is still being used by the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage in other materials sciences classes.

You can watch how the machine works in the video below.

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