Malaysian student hopes to modernise Sabah's rural divisions with US$100k award


ALESYAH Asa has always harboured hopes of building modern infrastructure in the interiors of Sabah. She wants to see the rural divisions of the state populated with shiny new constructions and facilities.

And now, the young Murut woman is one step closer to that dream.

The 20-year-old construction technology student from Keningau Vocational College was recently named a top 10 finalist for the Chegg.org Global Student Prize 2022.

If she wins, the youngest of five siblings from Nabawan town will walk away with an US$100,000 (RM448,400) award.

“I want to use some of that money to further my studies and become an engineer in the construction field,” she told StarEdu.

Alesyah also has other plans for the prize money. One of them is to invest in “Eureka Hub” – her science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) project which trains peers and teachers on robotics, drones, three-dimensional printing and entrepreneurship.

She added that she would conduct programmes to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education to her community.

STEM, according to her, had provided an outlet to fuel her passion for construction.

“Since I come from a rural area, I didn’t have much knowledge about the construction industry. One day, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and learn more about STEM,” she said.

Through her research, she discovered more about the Fourth Industrial Revolution and took an interest in robotics, 3D printing and drones.

Hailing from a sleepy town, Alesyah saw STEM as a way for her community to improve their living conditions.

It’s a shame then that not many students, especially female students, are embracing the field, she said.

“I’m out to prove that girls can do just as well as boys in STEM. They just need to build their confidence and go for it.

“STEM is fun and great, and I wish more students knew about this. When they study STEM, they will have lots of fun,” she enthused.

One of only a few female students enrolled in her course, Alesyah is on a mission to inspire women to excel in traditionally male-dominated vocational fields.

And that is why she is building a stronger representation for the fairer sex at her school.

To date, she has represented her department in several competitions and has mentored other female students to do the same.

One of her notable achievements was leading an all-female school team to be awarded Community Innovation Winner at the Global Media and Information Literacy Youth Hackathon, co-organised by Unesco and the Republic of Korea.

She also initiated an international exchange programme between her school and several schools in South Korea.

It’s just this kind of zest that has brought her so far in the Global Student Prize 2022, for which she is the sole Malaysian finalist.

Alesyah was selected from over 7,000 nominations and applications from 150 countries around the world.

The prestigious student award given annually to exceptional students who made a huge impact on their peers and society was launched by Chegg.org and the Varkey Foundation last year.

A sister award to the Global Teacher Prize, it was established to create a platform that shines a light on the efforts of extraordinary students who are reshaping the world for the better.

Chegg chief executive officer and president Dan Rosensweig said it is important to highlight Alesyah’s efforts.

“Students like Alesyah deserve to have their stories told and their voices heard. After all, we need to harness their dreams, insights and creativity to tackle the daunting and urgent challenges facing our world,” he said in a statement.

Varkey Foundation founder Sunny Varkey said Alesyah’s story is one of the power of education.

“Her story is a testament to the crucial role that education plays in building a better tomorrow for us all. It is the key to solving humanity’s greatest challenges, from war and conflict to climate change and growing inequality,” he said.

The winner of the Global Student Prize 2022 is expected to be announced later this year.

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