Rookie robotics enthusiast among AF elite

  • Published
  • By Wayne Amann
  • OSI Public Affairs

For someone without prior experience in the field, Tech. Sgt. Matthew Goff has a natural aptitude for robotics – just ask the Air Force.

As the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of Administration, Office of Special Investigations, Detachment 813, Minot Air Force Base, N.D., for two years, Goff conducts admin support for criminal, fraud, counterintelligence investigations and anti-terrorism operations supporting the combat readiness of the 5th Bomb Wing, 91st Missile Wing, and other DoD entities on base.

Enter the Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Training and Competition, a.k.a., Rise of the Digital Wingman Challenge.

“To be honest, I was lucky to have even seen the announcement on the Air Force Portal and managed to get into the training, let alone the opportunity to get a chance to use and build an RPA,” Goff said.

And build one he did, without the benefit of a robotics background.

His RPA was selected as one of the top 20 projects to compete Air Force-wide. The field started with 576 participants, dwindled to 248, then to 97 who made it to the challenge submission phase, and now 26 individuals comprise the 20 teams.

These Top 20 team projects were showcased, virtually, at the Air Force Information Technology Cyberpower (AFITC) Conference in Montgomery, Ala., Aug. 24-27, 2020. The AFITC event is designed to help build collaborative, problem solving relationships and strategies that balance real world experience with the latest innovations and breakthroughs in research and development among the Air Force, industry and academia.

They will also be showcased and judged at the Air Force Association’s Virtual Air, Space, and Cyber Conference Sept. 14-16, 2020. 

What was Goff’s reaction to making the Top 20 Team cut Air Force wide?

“I was shocked,” he said. “My intent was never about how high my automation concept would make in the challenge. Rather, I wanted to expand my administrative tool kit and highlight the possibilities that RPAs could give time back to our team members. This would allow them to focus on higher value tasks, or would give them more time to spend with their families.”

The RPA software Goff uses is called Studio or Studio X, which enables him to utilize a digital robot to execute a series of repetitive simple or complex commands, to execute desired administrative actions, i.e., reading, filling data on forms, updating rosters on SharePoint, pulling data, compiling data, etc. It allows him to design, without coding expertise, a digital robot, which can execute several mundane tasks to save Airmen time doing those tasks. The tasks can be done error-free as the robot follows specific criteria.

Goff had a well thought out game plan prior to going to the digital drawing board with his RPA.

“As an administrative professional, I believe it’s our job to continuously seek ways to better support our organizations,” he said. “We can accomplish this by not only understanding our job, but the role we play in an organization. We also need to learn and understand the jobs of those whom we support. This allows us to gain a deeper understanding into the administrative challenges they face. From there, we’re able to leverage our knowledge to provide training, develop tools and standardize processes. All of this is an effort to streamline the administrative burdens from the team and shift the organization’s focus to the heart of our (OSI) mission.”

Goff initially joined the program to learn, develop, and utilize RPA for the mission, but quickly built a prototype, which got him into the final phase of the competition.

And while he credits his wife’s support for his accomplishment, Goff’s Detachment Commander spoke on behalf of Det. 813.

“We’re super proud of Tech. Sgt. Goff and his proactive tenacity to save members of the unit time so they can better focus on cases, operations and programs, said Special Agent Eric Little. “He’s taking technology to the next level and representing administration, professional staffers and OSI very well!”