People will be more interested if they see how the stuff they are learning is useful.
Useful 99% of the time means you can make money with it.
Achieving novel results for science, or charitable goals (e.g. creating novel tutorials) are also equaly valid. Note that those also imply you being able to make a living out of something, just that you will be getting donations and not become infinitey rich. and that is fine.
Projects don't need of course to reach the level of novel result. But they must at least aim at moving towards that.
This is one of the greatest challenges of education, since a huge part of the useful information is locked under enterprise or military secrecy, or even open academic incomprehensibility, making it nearly to impossible for the front-line educators to actually find and teach real use cases.
And if you really can't make money from a subject, there is only one other thing people crave: beauty.
You have to give the beauty motivations upfront, before boring people to death with endless prerequisites, otherwise no one will ever want to learn it.