The Great Lakes Regional First Robotics Competition isn't just a forum for students from across the US and Canada to showcase their creations to each other, but to head hunters who are looking to recruit.

"This program is almost like you have in the National Hockey League where you have players being scouted, not just in the OHL but in bantam," said Irek Kusmierczyk, one of the event organizers.

He's the project manager of youth programs and robotics with the WEtech Alliance.

"We're trying to develop here in Windsor a talent pipeline where companies and students get to form relationships and bonds earlier on in that career track," he said.

And, it's a lot more challenging than many may think, he said.

First, the students spend six weeks working with engineers, programmers and skilled workers from companies like

'We're trying to develop, here in Windsor, a talent pipeline.'- Irek Kusmierczyk, organizer

Chrysler, GM, Bombardier and Google. They design and build 120 pound robots, which then have to perform a specific challenge.

This year, the robots have to pick up giant inflatable balls, pass them along to their teammates and shoot them into scoring baskets.

"It's a lot more complicated, a lot more sophisticated than just crashing and bashing robots," said Kusmierczyk. "So, there is an emphasis on team work here."

Megan McEwen attends Maranatha Christian Academy in Windsor and was one of the participants.

"I love it. I've always loved robotics and getting to do cool stuff with technology," she said. "It's the chance to learn so many different skills. I learn how to build things. I get to do electrical. I learn business."

Shortage of expertise

An event like this also helps employers address a future shortage in the engineering field.

Going forward, we're going to be in a dire shortage of engineers," said Asif Khan, an engineering manager at Chrysler in Detroit. "It is very important we excite kids, bring awareness about engineering, math, sciences."

McEwen said that although she's already excited, the competition helps attract new engineers.

"This is the ultimate rock party ... it's a nerdy thing but also a fun thing," she said. "Some people who've never been interested in technology are suddenly excited."

The competition takes place at the St. Denis Centre at the University of Windsor Friday through Saturday.