Alesyah Asa is a student of construction technology at Keningau Vocational College, Sabah, Malaysia. As a woman living in a rural, poorer area of Malaysia studying in a vocational field, Alesyah has risen above various stigmas, stereotypes, and economic hurdles to promote innovation, STEM education and inclusivity in her school and the wider community.
She has led a number of school initiatives in STEM-related activities, particularly focusing on vocational students and special needs learners. As a construction technology student, Alesyah’s mission is to inspire women to excel in traditionally male-dominated fields. As one of the few female students enrolled on her course, Alesyah has represented her department in various vocational competitions and has mentored other female students to do the same.
Alesyah led a STEAM project known as the “Eureka Hub” which trained peers and teachers on robotics, drones, 3D printing and entrepreneurship to help them prepare for a rapidly evolving, tech-led world. This initiative raised her peers’ interest and skill in using emerging technologies, inspiring them to be more creative and imaginative in leveraging these technologies in their respective vocational fields. The project’s success was recognised by the US-based Awesome Foundation, becoming the first recipient of a $1000 STEAM Grant. Since initiating the Eureka Hub, Alesyah has increased her community’s interest in emerging technologies and entrepreneurship, more women and young people in her community are now directly involved in these areas, and the quantity of STEM-related projects developed and presented at conferences or innovation competitions has skyrocketed.
She also initiated an international exchange programme between her school and several schools in South Korea. In 2019 she led a team of 12 students to visit schools there, prompting technology and knowledge transfer in areas such as robotics and drone technology, as well as the development of new strategies in implementing vocational education. This visit was followed by a series of physical and online inter-school events that continue to the present day, and the programme has fostered a deeper cultural understanding between schools from the two countries.
Alesyah led an all-female school team to be awarded Community Innovation Winner at the Global Media and Information Literacy Youth Hackathon, co-organized by UNESCO and the Republic of Korea. Her team helped tackle misinformation related to COVID-19 through educating the public about fake news and hoaxes through a set of strategies that helped communities better research, analyze and evaluate information.
Through her determination to break down barriers for students – particularly women, vocational students, those from rural areas and those with disabilities – Alesyah has opened up a swathe of opportunities for students in areas that they previously have limited access to. Because of her work, more female students represent the school in innovation contests and some of her school’s special needs learners have been nationally recognized as pioneers in using sign language to present their projects in national and international competitions.
If she were to win the Global Student Prize, Alesyah would use the prize money to invest in the Eureka Hub, improve school infrastructure, and further develop her project on tackling COVID-19 misinformation.