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Where Academy players are now: Justin Goodwill

By Anthony Picardi, 04/09/20, 9:00AM EDT

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Shortly after the Riverhounds Academy was created in 2007, it caught the eye of one South Fayette School District soccer player.

Justin Goodwill was first introduced to the Riverhounds Academy when Jason Kutney, a Hounds professional player and an Academy leader, came to the school to pitch the program to the students.

“I was a soccer fanatic,” Goodwill said. “I was really excited to begin training with them and see what it was like.”

Goodwill trained with the Riverhounds Academy from 2008-13 under coaches Scott Gibson, Niko Katic, John Rotz and Kutney. Through these years, he greatly improved his soccer skills and acumen and would receive offers to play at the collegiate level.

However, he did not ultimately pursue a college playing career as there was another interest brewing.

JOINING THE NASA GODDARD PROGRAM

Having an interest in engineering, Goodwill’s professional career would be ready for takeoff.

A participant in Duquesne University’s 3/2 program in tandem with the University of Pittsburgh, he acquired a Bachelor of Arts in physics (from Duquesne) and a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering (from Pittsburgh). He later stayed at Pittsburgh to obtain a Masters of Science in electrical and computer engineering.

“You have to be a leader on the field,” Goodwill said. “I was a captain at South Fayette and right now I’m leading a hardware team at the Center for Space, High-performance, and Resilient Computing (SHREC) lab on developing a processor. The same leadership qualities you develop with the Academy apply to leading a team of engineers. You have to have people buy in to your philosophy.”

While working at the University of Pittsburgh with SHREC, Goodwill also interned at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and will begin working there full-time this June. 

With the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, he’ll work in the Science Data Processing Branch, where he’ll work on machine learning and artificial intelligence. 

“My role will be on optimization,” Goodwill said. “Using machine learning and artificial intelligence, such as using it for faster wildfire detection response.” 

USING HIS RIVERHOUNDS ACADEMY SKILLS TODAY

Even after his time training at the Greentree Sportsplex with the Riverhounds Academy, quite a few principles he learned on the field have followed Goodwill into his professional career.

“The main thing I took away was the idea of optimization,” Goodwill said. “Optimizing your technique or your touches on the ball. You want to be very efficient in your movement. Not only on the pitch when you’re dribbling, but also when you’re in a team situation and you’re trying to get the ball down the field.”

As a player, Goodwill excelled at optimization and was once honored at a Riverhounds SC professional game at Chartiers Valley High School for his Riverhounds Academy performance, obtaining a Hounds jersey with his name – something he still looks back on as one of his favorite memories.

Now moving from the pitch to the lab, being efficient is still something Goodwill takes pride in today.

“That ties into what I do at NASA,” Goodwill said. “With different algorithms, finding the best way to do something. And that’s what they stressed with the Riverhounds Academy.”