For all of you talking about Aero gels. I was the Event Supervisor this past week at an invitational. I saw numerous devices with Aero gels, some with beads and others more solid forms. I am not saying you shouldn't use them, but overall I was not impressed. The beads were messy, and the construction and use of them is not great for this style of event with beaker to be removed and device to be inspected. The standard styrofoam did just as well, OR BETTER, than any "fancy/expensive" box. In the end, those students that were most prepared, tested their devices, had all their graphs and charts did the best.
In regard to the prior statement about SEQUENCE.
In larger invtitationals/ regionals it would almost be impossible to set everyone up and get the test out with sufficient time to take it.
This was the case at this past invitational. We gave out the exam after the 5 minute setup.
I then walked around the room, and one-by-one put water in each of the beakers, and students used a thermometer to test the external temperature of their beaker.
I then gave each team 3 minutes to make their prediction after measuring the external beaker.
All of the tests were collected at the same time at the end of the exam.
The event ran very smoothly in this manner and everyone was given the exact same time to do both Part I and Part II.
While an event supervisor COULD ask for a prediction PRIOR to starting, I don't think they should. There is a drastic drop off in temperature from the water source to your beaker on the table. If this happens, I would request the use of thermometer as stated in the rules to make a solid prediciton.