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Illinois Manufacturers’ Association Education Foundation Names Inaugural Winner of Scholarship for High School Innovators

By June 15, 2022June 13th, 2023No Comments

June 15, 2022

Student Receives Award For Creation of Product to Aid Mobility

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Manufacturers’ Association (IMA) Education Foundation has named Umika Arora, a student at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, as the inaugural winner of the Jim Nelson Scholarship for high school innovators. Arora won the scholarship for her invention of the iCane, a mobility aid and technical device that transforms a basic cane into a high-efficiency medical device with the addition of four major components – a flashlight, an SOS button, location tracking, and the partner iCane app.

Arora, of Morton Grove, was inspired to develop the device by her beloved grandpa, who when on a walk with his cane would sometimes need assistance but struggled to use the emergency features on his phone. By modifying his basic cane with buttons and circuitry, she created the iCane, which merged technology into a standard medical device to make assistance more accessible. When the SOS button on the device is pressed for more than three seconds, emergency contacts receive an alert via the iCane app. They can see the user’s location, set boundaries, and receive notifications when the user steps outside the boundary. With the iCane, there is no need to fumble with unfamiliar technology in emergency situations.

“Congratulations to Umika for winning the inaugural Jim Nelson Scholarship with the creation of an amazing invention that will improve lives,” said Sarah Hartwick, Vice President of Education and Workforce Policy at the IMA and Executive Director of the IMA Education Foundation. “We hope this award will inspire students like Umika to continue to think outside the box and provide solutions to everyday problems. It’s this sort of innovation that drives our state’s manufacturing sector and will transform the world.”

The Jim Nelson Scholarship provides a $1,000 award and was created in honor of Jim Nelson, the IMA’s former Vice President of Education and Workforce Development and head of the IMA Education Foundation who retired in 2020 after nearly two decades of service to manufacturers. A nationally recognized expert, Nelson played a key role in education policy including the creation of apprenticeship tax credits, which helps employers train workers entering the manufacturing industry. To honor him and his passion, the IMA Education Foundation created a new Jim Nelson Scholarship which will be awarded annually to a winner of the Celebrating High School Innovators (CHSI) program which is a competition for young innovators and entrepreneurs.

Arora was selected from members of the top-five teams at the 2022 edition of the CHSI competition, which identifies, fosters and celebrates high school innovators (grades 9-12) whose contributions are exceptional or inspirational. The yearly competition is held in partnership with numerous educators, entrepreneurs and industry leaders at Illinois State University’s Center for Mathematics, Science and Technology (CeMaST), including the IMA.

About the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association (IMA): The Illinois Manufacturers’ Association is the only statewide association dedicated exclusively to advocating, promoting, and strengthening the manufacturing sector in Illinois. The IMA is the oldest and largest state manufacturing trade association in the United States, representing nearly 4,000 companies and facilities. For more information, please visit

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