NC State's insect museum won a quarter of a million in stimulus dollars for outreach and new state of the art storage cabinets. The museum has over a million bugs on file, but gets only 50 visitors a year.
NC State also won $770,000 in stimulus dollars to create video games which could someday help the elderly preserve their memory.
And Duke University won a $498,000 stimulus grant to find better ways to protect privacy on social network sites like Facebook.
"Any research that's done anywhere on a college campus, if you take it out of context, it can be ridiculed," said Michael Schoenfeld with Duke University.
However, critics argue millions are being spent on exotic college research, which is not putting people back to work.
"Most people believe that stimulus projects, if we're going to do them at all, should be infrastructure projects that have long-term economic value, improve the road system, replace crumbling bridges," said John Hood with the John Locke Foundation. "If we had left this money in the hands of the people who originally earned it, households and businesses, instead of taking it to fund video game research, the economy would be better off."
Duke officials note they are the state's second largest private employer where many jobs are tied to research grants. And researchers at NC State acknowledge their $700,000 grant will create only five jobs. But they say the findings could end up saving lots of money.
"If we can delay dementia for a couple of years, that's going to reduce Medicare costs, reduce taxpayer contributions to Medicare," NC State Prof. Jason Allaire said.
A number of university officials also noted the stimulus bill was voted on last year. And Senators McCain and Coburn presented the report this year, three months before the November election.