January 25, 2014 10:57:54 PM
Mississippi State senior Mary Kate Smith of Madison is one of 11 self-proclaimed nerds competing to become the next "King of the Nerds" on the TBS network reality show.
The first edition of the hour-long show's second season began Jan. 23 at 9 p.m. Smith, an aerospace engineering major at the university, joined the other contestants to compete for the $100,000 grand prize and to be designated as the greatest nerd of them all.
Smith said she's not only excited about promoting the Thursday night show, but also about promoting the nerd within herself and the other competitors.
"It's a reality competition show that celebrates intelligence, ingenuity and everything about nerd culture," Smith said. "I am going head-to-head with other engineers and scientists, as well as gamers and librarians."
Smith, a 2008 Madison Central High School graduate, said she's loud and proud about her love for space -- her academic concentration at MSU is in astronautics.
"On the show, I feel like I represent MSU and the aerospace engineering department well," she said. "Everybody has something they nerd out about, so I think everyone can relate to the show."
Smith is very passionate about sharing her love of space -- especially rockets -- with young people, and the daughter of David and Mary Smith has served for the past two years as design manager for the MSU Space Cowboys rocket team.
To help meet a team goal of sparking children's interest in science and space, she invented "Goddard," a frog puppet named for U.S. space pioneer Robert Goddard that helps young scientists design and construct their first rockets.
Smith said "King of the Nerds" representatives contacted aerospace engineering professor Keith Koenig, adviser to the Space Cowboys, to identify students who might be a good fit for the show.
"Dr. Koenig knew about my passion and enthusiasm for space exploration and said, 'I think I'll put your name in.' I thought, 'Sure, I'll apply for this reality TV show,' Then, I got a call from Beverly Hills, California," she said. "It was a rigorous selection process where I had to talk about my nerdy qualities, but it was fun."
Smith's interest in rockets isn't her only qualification for nerdom. She also is passionate about sewing superhero costumes and participating in cosplay--otherwise known as costume play.
She's an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, an international organization focused on recreating the arts and skills of medieval Europe. When Smith assumes her SCA persona, she becomes "Inga Knarrarbringa," a Viking combat fighter.
Other nerd creds are Smith's love for David Bowie's music and acting, especially in "Labyrinth," and she also enjoys comic books: Marvel's "Superior Spiderman" is her favorite.
Smith said she found her fellow contestants to be such interesting and different individuals that each one personally inspired her.
"People of all ages are really going to love season two," she said.
To learn more about Smith and the other season-two contestants, visit tbs.com/shows/king-of-the-nerds. Follow Smith on Twitter at @TimeLord_mk.