Judy Lee

Product Designer at IDEO, Co-Host of PBS' Design Squad Nation


"Combining skills, whether in sports, music or fashion, with STEM can make a difference."

As a child growing up in Cary, North Carolina, Judy loved taking things apart to see how they work. With the support of her family (her dad is a civil engineer), that love eventually led to a mechanical engineering degree at North Carolina State University. After college, Judy harnessed her engineering skills on a wide range of projects—from designing children’s toys to creating medical devices to providing clean water to slums in Kenya to testing and destroying products to ensure their safety.

Prior to her work on Design Squad Nation, Judy was profiled on WGBH’s Engineer Your Life and appeared in NOVA’s Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers Web series. Judy now works at her dream job as a product designer at IDEO, an international design and innovation firm in Palo Alto, CA. When she’s not on-air brainstorming and building, Judy can be found in San Francisco remodeling her new home, growing fresh fruits and veggies in her garden, riding a big wheel down the nation’s windiest street, or playing with her pug, Rosie.

Favorite Inventors:

One of my favorite inventors is Tabitha Babbitt, an American toolmaker who invented the first circular saw in 1813. One day while she was at a sawmill, she noticed that the long two-handled saw the loggers used was wasting motion since it only cut one way. As an experienced weaver, she understood the mechanics of a loom and used this knowledge to design a solution. She mounted a circular saw blade on a spinning axel. The axel spun the blade at a high speed, creating the circular saw! The Tabitha Babbitt achievement was really mind-blowing when you consider how unusual it was for a woman to even be thinking about what was considered to be "man's work." At that time, it wasn't socially acceptable for women to even work outside the home.

Favorite Inventions:

My newest favorite invention is a glue stick where the adhesive is re-stickable. You can use the glue on anything (a photo, a shape you cut out, even wall paper) and turn it into a giant post it. I use it all the time!

Why Do You Think Math & Science are so AWESOME

Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) provide me with the tools to do amazing things. As an engineer, I’ve been able to make great toys for kids, create a doggy door for my pug Rosie, and most importantly, provide clean drinking water to rural villages in Africa! Without STEM, I wouldn’t be able to be who I am today.

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