Hundreds of Grade 6 girls got a hands-on crash course in science, technology and engineering at the University of Alberta on Tuesday.

The event called ‘Choices’ was part of the University of Alberta’s Women in Scholarship Engineering Science and Technology program that brings together hundreds of Grade 6 students annually for two days of hands-on learning in an effort to engage young girls for potential careers in those fields.

“One of the things WISEST is about, is offering girls the opportunity to get their hands dirty, get themselves into a lab, learn about chemistry, science, engineering,” said Denise Hemmings, chair of the program.

“(They) get to create something, build something and learn about what science, engineering and technology is all about.”

Girls can participate over two days, taking part in a number of events including attempting to build a newspaper ‘Pinocchio Nose’ and seeing if it could hang from one of the students’ heads as a fun way to teach about structural engineering and physics.

Another event saw the girls try to manage a water flow on a nine-metre-long ‘river’ set up in a lab. That exercise taught students how engineers deal with building flood controls, bridges and even looking at fish habitats.

Eleven-year-old Simone Benoit says she’s done a few similar science experiments and challenges in the past, and hopes engineering and technology is in her future.

“I was thinking of being a mechanical engineer,” she said with a smile.

Classmate Angela Jabar said Tuesday’s activities were brand new to her and she loved the experience.

“It seems really fun,” Jabar said.

The WISEST program has been running for 30 years, with the Choices conference in its 23rd year.

Volunteers or science “mentors” work with the Edmonton and area school girls to show the possibilities and choices of careers in science, technology and engineering.

Hemmings says she’s seen many young girls come through the program move onto careers in those fields – and many have credited WISEST for helping them make those life choices.

“It’s amazing to go and watch these kids go into a lab and get themselves into doing something and watch the little lights that come into their eyes as they’re learning something new about science and engineering,” Hemmings said.

“It’s rewarding for us and rewarding for the students and I think it’s a win-win all the way around.”