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Original Work Assessment

        For my original work, I created a functional saddle pad by combining engineering design techniques with the topic of material synthesis, which is a specialization of chemical engineering. The purpose of this project was to design and implement a saddle pad that worked to eliminate bacterial and fungal growth on the back of a horse during daily rides. The saddle pad I created combines different types of fabrics and antimicrobial technology along with a precise structure to create a saddle pad that works to reduce sweat. Any sweat that the horse still produces is wicked away by a cotton nylon blended fabric and absorbed into a padded cotton layer where it passes through an antimicrobial sheet full of silver nanoparticles that filter out microorganisms.

        My idea began when I was trying to come up with a project that combined my love for horses and my interests in the field of chemical engineering. I am a competitive equestrian, so I began thinking about what problems I face on a daily basis and one of the problems I came across was issues controlling bacteria and fungus on horses, specifically related to the saddle area. From there, I began to think about a specialization of chemical engineering which is material synthesis, which focuses on the use of different kinds of materials put together to create a better, more efficient product. This allowed the idea of creating a fungus and bacteria fighting saddle pad to be born. When I began thinking of this project I had no idea that it would take the path that it did and that I would eventually be creating my very own saddle pad using my original design. 

        In order to develop this complex product, I went through a series of phases that included research, design, and implementation. I first focused on the research phase where I did extensive amounts of research over various subjects looking for connections between horse sweat, fungus, bacteria, and materials. The research that I completed was extensive and required hours of dedicated work that I happily did throughout the course of several weeks. I then moved into the design phase where I used the research I had gathered to plan out an original design and composition of materials. I modeled this design through Autodesk Inventor which allowed me to really bring my ideas to life. The fact that I was able to model my design before implementing it allowed me to see any flaws and work out any kinks in the design before actually creating the product. This was definitely an essential step as it allowed me to very easily start on the implementation phase. In this final step, I gathered the materials that I had deemed essential for creating a successful and functional product and sewed it all together using the specifications from my model previously created. I was pleasantly surprised with how the product turned out considering I had never created a saddle pad before. 

        I think one of the things that I found most difficult about this project was the overall time management of the whole assignment. I spent more than half of the semester working on research and while my extensive research proved extremely useful in creating my saddle pad, it put me a bit behind where I needed to be as the deadline approached. In previous years, when I have been given a big project, checkpoints have been laid out that give me a better idea of where I need to be in the project and when. I began to feel as though I was running out of time the closer I got to the deadline and had to spend more time on the original work than I originally anticipated. It was a good learning experience as I think in future projects, including the final product project I will do next semester, I will manage my time better and not run so close to the deadline. 

        This project most definitely allowed me to not only grow as a student but begin to grow as a chemical engineer. The process that I followed is very similar to one that chemical engineers follow giving me a better insight into the profession I am going into. It also showed me the extensive research and science that goes into every single product that is created and how all of these different, seemingly insignificant, pieces of research can come together in order to make something that is truly remarkable.

        Looking ahead, I am beginning to think about what I could do for my final product and how I could challenge myself to something even more complex than what I did for my original work. I think I will either look to continue this project of saddle pads and possibly look at testing my product or even looking at how one might manufacture and create my product on a large scale. I could also go another direction, focusing more on research and chemical processes in a lab type setting. Either way, the amount of research and high level topics that will go into my final product will far exceed my original work. 

        Overall, my original work provided me with the ability to learn valuable lessons about time management, delve into the world of chemical engineering, and utilize higher level thinking skills as I worked to piece together complex concepts and ideas. I am very proud of the amount of work that I put into my original work and look forward to where this experience will take me in the future.

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