A group of students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is breaking down stereotypes one cheer at a time, proving that brains and cartwheels can coexist.
For the first time in the club's 50-year history, the MIT Cheerleading Squad will compete in the 2013 National Cheerleading Association Collegiate Cheer and Dance Championship to be held next month in Daytona Beach.
Traditionally, science and pom poms don't really go hand in hand, but according to MIT cheerleaders, the perky sport is actually quite physical - as in, physics play a big role.
"We'll use physics to explain how to do a stunt. We are always talking about momentum and kinetic energy," said Megan Cox, 21, the squad's co-captain.
The co-ed team performs at MIT's varsity football and basketball games. The squad includes a mix of graduate students and undergrads, including two men, none of whom cheered before college.
But according to their coach, Arianna Vahsen-Crosby, it doesn't exactly hurt to have a squad full of over-achievers.
"They have never failed at anything in their lives, so I'll say, 'We'll get this next time,' and they'll tell me, 'No. We can't leave.' Their determination is something I wish every cheerleader had."
Another perk of putting together a ditz-free squad - less cattiness.
"There is a different atmosphere than a high school cheerleading squad. Everyone is so much nicer," Cox said, adding that most MIT students are caught off guard to learn that their classmates are rah-rah-rahing in their free time.
"A lot of people didn’t know we had a squad at all, and some still don't believe us that we made it to (the championship)."
For 21-year-old Co-Captain Danielle Olson, a computer science student, the squad's success will hopefully help to reverse type casting at the school.
"Being a cheerleader, being feminine, or intelligent; it doesn't have to be mutually exclusive. Hopefully we can serve as an example that people shouldn't be boxed into certain expectations."
The team heads to Daytona Beach on April 10 to compete against about 100 cheerleading teams from across the nation. To prepare, the team has been practicing three times per week.
"We're just so excited to make it; we're over the moon," said Crosby of the likelihood that the squad will steal first place. "I know they'll give it their all."