Support Provided ByLearn More

Embrace The Dirt

ByTom MillerThe Secret Life of Scientists and EngineersThe Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

Receive emails about upcoming NOVA programs and related content, as well as featured reporting about current events through a science lens.

Click here for Judy’s Profile.

You can tell from Judy Lee’s videos that, while she’s now an accomplished and successful product designer and TV host, there’s still a whole lot of girl in her. And she told us a couple of stories that made it clear that that girl is a huge part of what now makes Judy such an amazing, energetic, alive woman.

Support Provided ByLearn More

First Judy as a girl:

Embrace The Dirt-young_judy.jpg
Young Judy, cleaned up but soon to get dirty again

“Across the street from my friend’s house, there was this big mound of dirt. And it was probably about the size of the house. And my friend Jenny and I would just go climbing up and slide down on our butts. And we would do that over and over and over. And I remember coming home, my mom would be furious, because I’m just filthy. I’ve got this red stained clay all over my butt. But it was fun. It was fun getting dirty. It was fun sliding down this hill. It was fun just running around, you know?”

Now most people eventually out-grow dirt. I sure did. But Judy didn’t. Here she is telling us about the playground project she and “Design Squad Nation” did for an underprivileged school in Nicaragua (see her “Empowerment Tools” video to get more of the story):

“So when the playground was done—we’re talking about five days of really hard building, dirt on my face, and I’m completely exhausted—that was the best feeling.”

Ah, the dirt still feels good!

But things can be different when you’re a grown-up:

“We had three hours left to do some finishing touches, and then there were kids running around, laughing and screaming…. And I’m like, ‘I need these kids to stop playing, because I have to finish this thing! We only have three hours left!’

“And then I stepped back for a minute and I thought, ‘This is a really great thing. These kids are laughing—they’re having a great time. We’re here to do exactly what we’re supposed to do. This is really awesome. This is the reason why we’re here.’”

So what was Judy’s message?

Embrace the dirt.