In these budget conscious times, schools who want to integrate modern interactive technologies have a choice, buy a SmartBoard , or build your own for a fraction of the cost. Johnny Chung Lee has done some of the groundbreaking work with the Wii, the build instructions and downloads can be found on his site. In addition to the Wiimote, you’ll need an infrared light emitting pen, which you can build yourself for short money.

Since the Wiimote can track sources of infrared (IR) light, you can track pens that have an IR led in the tip. By pointing a wiimote at a projection screen or LCD display, you can create very low-cost interactive whiteboards or tablet displays. Since the Wiimote can track upto 4 points, up to 4 pens can be used. It also works great with rear-projected displays.

Rather than spending thousands of dollars per classroom, students and faculty could make them in-house while helping to transform the school into a more technology-rich learning environment. With a project like this in your school, it could be a great way to do some electronics, system design and get a taste of mass production of the components. While this may not fit in to your current curriculum to have students build these systems, it could be a great way to collaborate across subject areas, or it could provide a great after school club activity.

Has your school built one of these $40 smartboards? How well do they work in comparison to other interactive display systems? Let us know about your experiments and experiences in the comments. [Thanks Rachel!]