The Butterfly Woman project is a wearable set of wings for Lydia Villa-Komaroff, a molecular biologist that works with under-represented groups of people supporting their efforts in the STEM fields. The wings are designed to incorporate her dedication to eradicating bias and stereotyping with her interest in Geiger Counters and butterflies. The wings serve as a detector of Implicit Bias and Stereotyping and flutter when this type of negativity is detected.
When the wings flutter they alert both the wearer and the exhibitor of the bias to of the situation and what specific type of stereotyping is occurring. Lydia often wishes that she was able to seek out any and all stereotyping and bias around her, even in the most subtle situation. This project allows Lydia to go about her business without diverting energy towards seeking out bias. It will alert her to any nearby bias so she can act immediately helping others grow and protect themselves from stereotyping and its harmful effects. The wings, two and a half feet tall, are mounted onto an exoskeleton that fits like a corset around the user's body. A user-activated motor attached to the back of the exoskeleton drives the fluttering motion of the wings.
The goal of designing this real-world superhero prop is to bring awareness to the subtle expression of modern-day racism through implicit bias. For example, when the most challenging jobs are given to male workers when the female workers are more qualified but are excluded due to their sex. On a daily basis, the project succeeds just by bringing smiles and positivity into Lydia's life and the lives of those around her. The structure and lighting elements were designed to be fun and interesting to observe. The wings are specifically designed to represent Lydia's personality. The material the wings are made out of is thick, symbolizing Lydia's resilience in the face of adversity. Underneath the thick material, colorful lights represent her fun and playful personality once people get to know her.