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Home: Welcome

Who We Are

Enabling Curiosity and Imagination

The 9th Street Lab is based on the idea that children have a natural and innate sense of imagination and curiosity of the world.  The Lab provides an environment and opportunity that enables children’s creativity and imagination to grow and develop while they learn practical and lifelong skills.  All of this takes place with hands-on workshops and activities where students work as individuals and as a group.

How We Learn

Hands-on Workshops

9th Street Lab believes in hands-on learning. We host workshops for 8-12 year olds. Workshops are project-based and focus on specific skills.  Skills are technical-based - learning how to use tools: saws and hand drills for example - and process-based: problem solving, design, and collaboration with other students.

Framework for Learning

Learning Skills

The framework for the workshops have three components: learning hands-on skills, exploring and developing individuals’ sense of imagination and curiosity, and building and discovering things that are meaningful to students. 

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Building Confidence

"I can do anything."

Workshops foster individual students' capabilities. In the woodworking workshop, students built a box and learned the basic skills of hammering, measuring, sawing, and drilling.  Building a box, simple as it may appear, requires skill, patience, and perseverance. The workshops provide fun opportunities to learn and practice these lifelong skills.


Learning Together

In the workshops, students are encouraged to collaborate with each other on projects. Collaborations develop problem solving skills, sharing of ideas, and helping with newly gained technical skills.



Overcoming Challenges

At the end of each workshop, we gather around and talk about our work.  We look at our challenges and how we overcame them.  We look at what works best and what we would do differently next time.  Reflection allows us to learn from each other and to complement each other's great work.

"...he has an improved sense of confidence, not just in his growing woodworking skills but in general."

"If you keep on trying, you never fail."

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About 9th Street Lab

Steve Tornallyay is the Founder and Director of the 9th Street Lab.  I have designed and led hands-on building workshops at Washington elementary school in Berkeley and in our backyard.  


My professional background is in industrial design, museum planning, and exhibition design.  I have a passion for designing environments and hands-on activities that engage all people.  I look forward to working with students to bring out their curiosity, creativity, imagination, and confidence as they build and learn amazing things.

Thank you to Linda, Nora, Ezra, and Abby and all the families at Washington Elementary school who helped start the Girls Engineering Club - the precursor to the 9th Street Lab. Thank you to Ashby Lumber for support.

Come build with us.



To learn more about 9th Street Lab, contact Steve Tornallyay, Founder and Director:


Our outdoor workshops are for six students ages 8-12 and are designed for a range of skill level: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. At each level, builders learn to use a variety of tools, techniques, and design and building skills.

Below are photos and descriptions of the unique design build workshops we have held recently.



This workshop explores the roots tradition of making instruments. We will design and build instruments using wood, strings, off-the-shelf hardware, and other everyday materials. We will learn basic woodworking techniques, how to create sounds using different materials, and how to fine-tune a hand-made instrument.


Have you ever wanted to learn how to build with wood but have no idea where to start? In this one day workshop students (age 7+) will learn essential woodworking skills. Each student will build a bookshelf. In the workshop, we learn essential woodworking skills - measuring, sawing, hammering, and chiseling. The workshop is geared for first-time builders.



Bamboos are one of the most widely grown grasses in the world and are made into hundreds of useful and beautiful objects from kitchen spatulas to high-rise scaffolding. In this workshop, we explore the unlimited possibilities to shape, form, bend, cut, splice, and transform bamboo from an elegant plant to beautiful objects. We will learn to use a variety of tools including saws, chisels, drills, and most important—our imagination. 


Explore the E in STEM. Taking apart everyday objects, from vacuum cleaners and car engines to laptops and blenders, reveals a wide range of science, technology, and engineering. In this workshop, we use a variety of tools to take apart appliances, computers, car engines, toys, and more. We explore all the parts and their functions, how pieces work and the mechanisms and materials.

Past Workshops



Using hand tools, we learned basic skills - measuring, sawing, hammering, and drilling. We built amazing things.


Each student designed and built a Little Free Library.  


Watch for them installed in your neighborhood.


Each student designed and built a pinball machine or marble maze. We played with a wide variety of features and scenaries on our pinball machines and mazes.



In this Washington school fundraiser workshop we built animals. The only rules were the animals needed two eyeballs and moving parts.



We built bookshelves using hand tools and basic geometry. The bookcases assemble without any fasteners.


In this workshop, we took on the challenge to design and build a solar-powered lamp. We engineered a sturdy base, figured out how to attach an LED lamp, and designed a lampshade.



Our most ambitious project to date. Using a variety of hand tools and power tools, we built sturdy chairs. Each chair was a challenge in cutting and assembling pieces into a complex 3D puzzle that we all solved! Perseverance and problem-solving skills made for the amazing end results—building a chair to be proud of.



From one string diddley bows to gourd kalimbas. In this workshop, we learned new skills to build instruments from everyday materials - wood, cigar boxes, gourds, guitar strings, and more. We honed our skills in perserverance and fine tuning our work.


In this essential woodwork workshop, students learned how to use a Japanese saw, mark out wood, and chisel a slot joint. We made amazing bookcases.  With these essential skills, you can build anything!

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