Tech academy offers students a head-start on the future

By Lynne Conner For Chronicle Media

From left–Jackson Fumo and Farridum Jabborov are assisted by instructor Dave Lavoy at the Montel Tech Academy. (Photo by Lynne Conner / for Chronicle Media)

Area students with a strong interest in computers, programming and coding have a unique opportunity to develop their talents and collaborate with their peers at the Montel Tech Academy (MTA).


Lead by Dave Lavoy, a research and development specialist at Montel Technologies, MTA meets every Saturday during the school year from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Montel campus located on East. Riverside Boulevard in Loves Park.  MTA is open to students in upper elementary school through high school.  The Saturday meetings are free and lunch is provided.


Montel Technologies is a securities contracting company which designs builds and manages security systems for hospitals, airports and government facilities. So MTA is a natural extension for the business.


The academy came into being after the company set up a booth at a local high school career fair which attracted lots of interest from local students.  According to Lavoy, students in MTA learn at their own pace and no computer expertise is needed to join the class.


“The main focus of the Saturday meetings is to give students an opportunity to learn computer technology,” Lavoy said. “Since the academy started about a year ago, we have touched on the basics like what is computer programming, how can you use it and what are the basic computer languages. The students who have been here since last year are now working with artificial intelligence, facial recognition and object detection, basically the next generation of computing in the security world.


Students participating in MTA not only get to explore how computer programming fits into their natural talents; but they also get a chance to collaborate with fellow students.


“We let the kids get a taste of different aspects to computer programming and then we allow the students to concentrate on whichever area they like best,” Lavoy said.  “We try to focus on a student’s individual talents and what intrigues them.”


After working through the basics of computer programming and coding, students often work in collaborative groups on different parts of a computer game.  “So they’re all working as one big team to make sure that they can work together and problem solve,” Lavoy said.


Currently, the students are working on a “Dungeons & Dragons” type game; first getting the operations of the game to work and then figuring out a look and design for it.  MTA students also have the option of working on their projects at home and sharing their progress with other academy students online or in person.  Lavoy adds that students in MTA can use computers at the business to create their projects or bring in their own computers.


Noah Grebner, a sophomore at Auburn High School in Rockford, is an original member of MTA and appreciates being able to work on his projects at an accelerated pace.  He has also applied some of what he’s learned at the academy to his interest in technical theater.  Grebner sees the benefit of coding experience now as helping him get ahead in the future.

“Ideally, I’d like to work at Montel after some schooling and developing my software and on coding capabilities.  MTA provides practical experience and hands on work, which I think will go along very well with future schooling.  I’d like to get an internship in computer coding and I think my experience with the academy here will definitely give me an advantage in the future.”


Jackson Fumo, also an original member of MTA is a sophomore at Auburn High School and sees his work at Montel as an essential skill set for success in the future.


“Coding is really the future of business and it’s a good skill to have because there a lot of things business applications out there that can’t be run without knowing computer coding,” Fumo said.  “At MTA, we don’t just learn about coding, but also the physical aspects of building an application.  Plus, there’s a great group of people to hang out with here.”


Fumo sees the Montel academy as providing something extra to what he’s learning in high school.  “I hope to go into a computer related field in college, maybe someday work at Montel; but for now I’m really learning life skills here that will be an advantage to me after high school.”


For more information on the MTA contact Dave Lavoy at