UND grad crowned ‘King of the Nerds’ on TBS reality show
Being a kid with the nickname “NASA” got UND graduate Kayla LaFrance pushed into lockers during high school, but recently her nerdiness netted her a new title and $100,000.
The 28-year-old is the latest winner of the TBS reality show “King of the Nerds,” which pitted 11 nerds from a variety of backgrounds against one another for a crown and cash prize.
LaFrance, who has a master’s degree in space studies from UND and hails from Greenacres, Wash., had originally tried out for the show’s first season.
During the final stages of the selection process NASA offered her an internship, which she accepted and kept her from continuing in the process.
“I tried out again for this season, got in and the rest is history,” LaFrance said.
In Season 1, professional gamer Celeste Anderson of Winnipeg claimed the crown. This time around, LaFrance beat out gamers, engineers, chemists and students to claim the title and cash.
“From start to finish, my experience at Nerdvana was positive,” she said, referring to the campus where the nerds lived and competed.
Among the challenges that tested competitors’ skills and nerd prowess, the one LaFrance said she enjoyed the most was “nerdiocart” — an event that combined go-karts with the visual elements seen in “Mario Kart” and the Tron films.
LaFrance won the race after 12 laps around the track.
“Those boys had nothing on me,” she said with a laugh.
Part of her success on the show — apart from her love of Star Trek and DC comics — came from being a tomboy, according to LaFrance. That includes playing hockey.
“Hockey teaches you to be competitive but also how to be a team player,” she said. “Some of the gamers might have struggled with that.”
Other competitions, known as “Nerd Wars” included a Star Wars versus Star Trek debate, a live-action role-playing competition and a science fair.
Each episode also featured well-known nerd guest-judges including Bill Nye, Mayim Bialik of “The Big Bang Theory” fame and Matt Winston, co-founder of the Stan Winston School of Character Arts.
After the show
At the end of an eight-episode run, LaFrance was crowned by “Revenge of the Nerds” cast members Robert Carradine and Curtis Armstrong.
She didn’t get to keep her crown but did have some custom headwear made to commemorate her win. A huge fan of baseball caps, LaFrance now has one with a crown and the word “nerd” to wear.
The rest of her winnings will be spent on something less exciting.
“Students loans,” LaFrance said “After nine years of college to get my bachelor’s and master’s degrees... I racked up some incredible loans.”
There could be more school in LaFrance’s sights if she is accepted into UND’s space studies doctorate program. Otherwise, she hopes to land a job in the space industry.
“Whichever comes first,” LaFrance said.
On the Web: To see clips from the show, go to bit.ly/1e3GtZh.
To see video of Kayla LaFrance's crowning, go to http://bit.ly/1dgMnXp