Admittedly, some of us will have a difficult time deciphering what a few of the Intel ISEF projects are all about. But other projects are easy for us to understand the benefits of.

•Colorado’s Ryan Patterson won several Intel ISEF awards, including one for the Sleuthbot Robotic Search Tool, a robot designed to search school buildings and report on anyone inside. Patterson came up with the idea after the Columbine High School shootings. In 2001, he followed the ¬Sleuthbot up with an electronics-studded glove that translates sign language into typewritten text, allowing a deaf person to communicate with anyone, anywhere.

•Saudi student Ahmed Khalid Al-Nuaimi developed a shoe in 2007 that is embedded with electronic sensors and alarms that can help the blind and visually impaired avoid obstacles.

•Pennsylvania’s Elena Leah Glassman created software that helps people suffering from muscular disabilities to control personal computers -- with their brains.

•Canadian Ben Gulak won an award in 2007 for developing a no-emission, single-wheel electric vehicle called the Uno. It looks and rides more like a motorcycle than a Segway.

•Oklahoma’s Mary Masterman used $300 worth of parts from a digital camera, a microscope, an inexpensive laser, and other gadgets to build a spectrometer, a device that measures light at a molecular level. Spectrometers typically cost somewhere between $20,000 and $100,000 to make.

Since we were just speaking of game shows, it makes sense to mention that Gulak recently took home about $1 million for his Uno when he became a winner on Dragons’ Den, a Canadian TV show that has entrepreneurs invest money in start-up companies. (The U.S. version, which premiered this past August, is called Shark Tank, which unfortunately is probably not an homage to Jaws 3-D.) Gulak’s success made for a very rare direct crossover from Intel ISEF project to commercial product. But the TV appearance helped Intel accomplish one of its goals: to treat Intel ISEF winners like celebrities.

“I hope that more young people will look at these [Intel ISEF winners] and realize they can be recognized for using their brains,” Intel chairman Craig Barrett has said. “You don’t have to be a quarterback, a basketball player, or a baseball player to be recognized by your peers and the public.”