TCLab: Temperature Control Laboratory



TCLab provides a Python interface to the Temperature Control Lab implemented on an Arduino microcontroller over a USB interface. TCLab is implemented as a Python class within the tclab package. The tclab package also includes:

  • clock A Python generator for soft real-time implementation of process control algorithms.
  • Historian A Python class to log results of a process control experiment.
  • Plotter Provides an historian with real-time plotting within a Jupyter notebook.
  • TCLabModel An embedded model of the temperature control lab for off-line and faster-than-realtime simulation of process control experiments. No hardware needs to be attached to use TCLabModel.

The companion Arduino firmware for device operation is available at the TCLab-Sketch repository.

The Arduino Temperature Control Lab is a modular, portable, and inexpensive solution for hands-on process control learning. Heat output is adjusted by modulating current flow to each of two transistors. Thermistors measure the temperatures. Energy from the transistor output is transferred by conduction and convection to the temperature sensor. The dynamics of heat transfer provide rich opportunities to implement single and multivariable control systems. The lab is integrated into a small PCB shield which can be mounted to any Arduino or Arduino compatible microcontroller.


Install using

pip install tclab

To upgrade an existing installation, use the command

pip install tclab --upgrade

The development version contains new features, but may be less stable. To install the development version use the command

pip install --upgrade

Hardware setup

  1. Plug a compatible Arduino device (UNO, Leonardo, NHduino) with the lab attached into your computer via the USB connection. Plug the DC power adapter into the wall.

  2. (optional) Install Arduino Drivers

    If you are using Windows 10, the Arduino board should connect without additional drivers required.

    For Arduino clones using the CH340G, CH34G or CH34X chipset you may need additional drivers. Only install these if you see a message saying “No Arduino device found.” when connecting.

  3. (optional) Install Arduino Firmware

    TCLab requires the one-time installation of custom firmware on an Arduino device. If it hasn’t been pre-installed, the necessary firmware and instructions are available from the TCLab-Sketch repository.

Checking that everything works

Execute the following code

import tclab
with tclab.TCLab() as lab:

If everything has worked, you should see the following output message

Connecting to TCLab
TCLab Firmware Version 1.2.1 on NHduino connected to port XXXX
TCLab disconnected successfully.

The number returned is the temperature of sensor T1 in °C.


If something went wrong in the above process, refer to our troubleshooting guide in

Next Steps

The notebook directory provides examples on how to use the TCLab module. The latest documentation is available at Read the Docs.

Course Websites

Additional information, instructional videos, and Jupyter notebook examples are available at the following course websites.