Title

2012 UND alumna Kayla LaFrance crowned top nerd on TV reality show, wins $100,000 in the process

Authors

Amy Halvorson

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

3-21-2014

Abstract

2012 UND alumna Kayla LaFrance crowned top nerd on TV reality show, wins $100,000 in the process

Kayla LaFrance was crowned "King of the Nerds" in the final episode for season two of the show King of the Nerds (KOTN) on Turner Broadcasting System (TBS, channel 57 in on Grand Forks cable).

Not only is LaFrance a brilliant nerd but she happens to be a University of North Dakota alumna.

LaFrance graduated from UND in 2012 with a master of science in space studies. She also has a bachelor of science in physics engineering as well as minors in math and public relations from Belmont University in Tennessee. Her ultimate dream is to work for NASA and go to Mars.

KOTN just finished airing their second season and is hosted by Robert Carradine and Curtis Armstrong, stars of the popular 1980-1990's movie franchise Revenge of the Nerds. Carradine played lead nerd or character Lewis Skolnick and Armstrong was Dudley "Booger" Dawson in the original 1984 movie and three of its sequels.

The new KOTN reality TV show invites competitors to face challenges that test their intellect, ingenuity, skills and pop-culture prowess. The nerds face off in the beginning as teams and as the show progresses and more people get eliminated they work their way into competing on an individual basis. The winner gets to sit upon the Throne of Games and call themselves the greatest nerd of them all, as well as receive a $100,000 prize.

LaFrance has a different story than most when it comes to how she got on the show. When season one was casting LaFrance applied and was asked to come to Los Angles for the final selection phase but turned it down when she was offered the chance to spend the summer working at NASA Ames Research Center on Mars exploration research. When the network started casting for season two, they contacted LaFrance and asked if she wanted to give KOTN another shot. LaFrance was thrilled.

LaFrance said, "when I made it to the final eleven, it felt like a long two-year journey was finally culminating in one of the best adventures I could imagine."

LaFrance then packed her bags and headed for "Nerdvana," the mansion which all of the contestants live in, deemed as a nerd's paradise. Living at Nerdvana has been one of LaFrance's favorite things about being on KOTN.

"I was surrounded by nerds and people of the highest caliber who made the experience what it was for me," said LaFrance. "There were always reasons to laugh and enjoy the moment, even in the midst of battle and competition."

LaFrance feels that her strengths for the show were knowledge in NASA, astronomy, Star Trek, Sci-Fi and DC Comics. She also has useful skills when it comes to mechanics, tools and engineering. LaFrance believes her weaknesses were having little knowledge in the fantasy genre and not being a gamer. She also feels that she was lacking in creative skills, such as acting and painting.

As the new King of the Nerds, LaFrance plans on putting the prize money toward her student loans and using the title as a platform to promote nerd culture, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in schools, and try to offer a positive outlook for younger students in school.

"Being a nerd can make younger students a prime target for bullying, and I would love to use King of the Nerds as an opportunity to encourage students to persevere and follow their love and passion no matter what the other kids might say," LaFrance said.

LaFrance's experiences at UND have helped her down the road to victory by providing her with group-work experience. Her first team challenge was very difficult for her team, the "Titans of Rigel."

"There were several moments during that challenge that reminded me of the team I was working with during the Capstone project I had to do (at UND)," she said.

Through her past experiences, LaFrance knew how to handle the situation and work productively as a team.

LaFrance recalled on one of her "nerdiest" moments at UND, which also happens to be one of her favorite memories as well.

"In 2003-2004, I was a freshman; that year I joined the astronomy club and spent many long chilly nights at the UND Observatory," LaFrance said. "That year was amazing because we had Mars at a close approach and it looked fantastic in the scope. I still remember some of the best views of that planet I have ever seen. I was even able to make out features like Syrtis Major. We also watched live feeds of the Mars Exploration Rovers landing on Mars from the UND Space Studies Department that year."

As LaFrance pursues her dreams, she will always maintain her UND pride. LaFrance says that once she can secure a job she would love to come back to UND and earn her Ph.D. through the aerospace/space studies program.

Amy Halvorson University & Public Affairs student writer

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