HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Looking to the sky, more than 350 girls learned how cool science and engineering can be.

Third- through fifth-grade girls from across Huntsville and Madison County attended the eighth annual Girls Science and Engineering Day at the Shelby Center for Science and Technology on the campus of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Saturday.

"It is so important to reach younger girls because they are not always encouraged to get into the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects," Emily Vandiver, chair of the Women's Leadership Council, said. "Here they have the opportunity to see science in action, do hands-on experiments, and realize that it is cool to be smart."

Kicking off the event was a competitive parachute team from the Army's Golden Knights. The four-person team jumped onto the lawn of the university's Shelby Center. After landing, the team took questions from an enthusiastic audience.

When asked how they got to be so good at jumping, Sgt. 1st Class Dannielle Woosley with the Golden Knights said it is like everything in life -- it takes practice.

"We trained a lot and we never gave up, even when we got frustrated or things didn't go as planned. It is so important to never quit and that's what you guys need to remember," Woosley said.

This is the second time the team has jumped into the event; they also attended the 2014 program.

"We love events like this where we can work with kids and show that any dream is accomplishable and there isn't anything you can't do if you put your heart into it," Staff Sgt. Sherri Jo Gallagher with the Golden Knights said.

Following the Golden Knights jump, the girls participated in hands-on presentations and experiments. UAH, Redstone Arsenal organizations and corporate sponsors hosted more than 20 activities for the event. Each girl had the opportunity to attend four 40-minute programs.

Strawberry DNA extractions were on the menu, along with creating homemade Play-Doh missile propellant, investigating the intricacies of catapults, robotics and computer programming.

Using a catapult to fire ping pong balls at a castle, fifth-grader Ava McConnell said this was her third year to attend the event.

"I really love coming because it's lots of fun and every time I get to do something new," said McConnell who attends Westminster Christian Academy and wants to be an engineer when she grows up.

The girls weren't the only returnees. The event had more than 200 volunteers, many of whom make volunteering an annual event.

Oksana Mandybur, who works with the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, has been with the event since the first year.

"Watching the reaction on the girls' faces and to set that light into them, letting them know that they can be more, that is so special," Mandybur said.