The Iowa Virtual Human Summit 2020, hosted by the Iowa Technology Institute, took place on Wednesday, August 12, 2020. It examined current and future states of virtual human representation in modeling and simulation. The focus was on female-specific performance and the promise a "digital twin" replica offers to optimize the design of new equipment. Leading experts in modeling and simulation led presentations about technical gaps, challenges, and priorities, as well as plans to fill gaps, in developing female personal protective equipment (PPE) for the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, law enforcement, first responders, industry, and others. The summit offered an opportunity to connect stakeholders with the resources, expertise, and tools to meet the challenges from academia, industry, and government to take part in this important conversation. 

Too often the one-size-fits-all approach to PPE and body armor fails to provide adequate protection or comfort for females in the line of duty. Legislation proposed in 2019 in Congress calls attention to the need to close this gap. Organizations such as Iowa Technology Institute have mature modeling and simulation tools that can be leveraged to improve the design and fit of PPE and body armor for females.



  • Identify and evaluate existing capabilities and opportunities for female PPE 

  • Identify specific challenges and priorities related to R&D, training, operations, acquisition, and test & evaluation

  • Discuss use of modeling and simulation (M&S) tools to address challenges; highlight M&S applications in human behavior representation (realism), performance (survivability, lethality, and injury), training, and test & evaluation

  • Discuss need for improved definitions, standards, and measurements related to female PPE 

  • University of Iowa facilitate DOD-wide conversations to enhance human behavior M&S 


Why Now?

Sen. Joni Ernst
Joni Ernst

A bi-partisan coalition, including Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, has brought attention to the need for body armor and other PPE that is adequate, properly fitted, and readily available for female soldiers. Over 210,000 women serve on active duty in the military services (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force), and another 5,955 serve in the Active Coast Guard, according to a Service Women's Action Network 2019 report. Many military women are forced to wear equipment and clothing that don't fit because they were designed for men. 

Sen. Ernst, who delivered the keynote at the summit, is chair of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities. She identified proper-fitting body armor for female soldiers at the top of her list of priorities for Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. 

The previously introduced Female Body Armor Modernization Act of 2019 had gained bi-partisan support and legislation tracker, GovTrack, had identified it as a "potential candidate for passage, although it’s also possible it could be incorporated into the larger annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It’s also possible the military could incorporate some of these reforms of their own accord."