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It’s a hoax
by Sarah Taylor
Jun 09, 2010 | 7986 views | 22 22 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dr. J.R. Castillo
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It’s hard to guess why anyone would use a science fair to scam a fourth-grader. But that’s exactly what happened.

Julisa Castillo, who just finished the fourth grade at R.A. Hall Elementary, recently received a trophy, medal, plaque and congratulatory letter promising an all-expenses-paid trip to Space Camp.

The items claimed to have come from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and were reported in Saturday’s Bee-Picayune and mysoutex.com Web site.

The problem is that the NSF said it has never seen this letter and that all of the items are a poor misrepresentation of the foundation’s logo.

The major tip-offs proving the falseness of the letter, other than the incorrect logo, include a lack of signature or contact information. The confirming piece of evidence is that the NSF does not hold any kind of science fair at all.

“Neither the plaque nor the letter is authentic, and this amounts to fraudulent use of NSF’s name and logo. This matter has been referred to our Office of the Inspector General,” said Maria Zacharias, group leader in the NSF public affairs division.

Besides all of these factors, Zacharias said that it would be unusual for the topic “Disproving Global Warming” to beat 50,000 other entries, as the letter claimed.

“Global warming is kind of a fact,” said Zacharias. “The controversy is over how much of it is caused by humans.”

The scam was discovered and independently investigated by an overwhelming number of bloggers in the online science community.

Some of these, including university level science professors, inquired because they knew that no “National Science Fair” exists. Some even called the incident a political hoax due to the nature of the topic and the mentioning of former Vice President Al Gore as a member of the judging panel.

However, the issue is not about what Julisa chose to research or how she did it, but why someone would fabricate a science fair, especially with such elaborate prizes.

What about the trip to space camp? While the U.S. Space & Rocket Center could not reveal whether Julisa is registered, it was able to confirm that it has not been contacted by the NSF or any group operating under the name “National Science Fair.”

If the NSF did not send Julisa her letter and prizes, who did?

Some suspicions have arisen about Julisa’s father, Dr. J.R. Castillo, a local engineer and musician. Castillo informed the school of Julisa’s accomplishments and provided the information for the original news story regarding Julisa’s winnings.

R.A. Hall School Principal Martina Villarreal then contacted the Bee-Picayune so that Julisa could be recognized for such an outstanding achievement.

Villarreal did not know the specifics of the fair, the application process or the awards.

It may be difficult to find a motive for falsifying a science fair win, particularly using the name of a real, national organization.

Castillo said that his daughter discovered the contest through an ad for the “National Science Fair” on an educational Web site, but he did not remember which site.

According to Castillo, there was no entry fee for the fair, and the family had been in contact with someone in Arlington, Va., claiming to be the NSF. The actual NSF is based in the same city.

However, Castillo said that they did not have a copy of the application, and the packaging for the awards had already been thrown out.

Castillo said he believed someone had gone to great lengths to deceive his family and he had no idea why.

No matter who created this mind-boggling scam, the intentions behind it remain unclear.

Nevertheless, a local fourth-grade science project and resulting news story have caused an astonishing commotion in the science community nationwide.

Sarah Taylor is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or sarah@mysoutex.com.

Comments
(22)
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beeville4life
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June 24, 2010
all i have to say is how does he get the title DR jr castillo??? he said in a recent article that he was going to start finishing some classes this fall to complete his "MASTERS"... so how is he "DR" jr castillo if he doesnt even have a masters yet... just a thought... anyone????????????
HellFire
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June 13, 2010
Poor HellFire, yes poor little me, LMAO @ U!!!

I’m fished, boated and salt watered out for the foreseeable future. I doubt the oil spill disaster will come to points south but why take a chance. In all honesty, I pray it does not. We put in Monday and only came to shore to restock and bathe. The room still has not stopped moving.

I see obama has done his usual muslim socialist illegal immigrant thing, nothing to help America. If it were his homeland, he would spare no expense or lives to protect it.

There is too much and too rich a target environment to tackle right at the moment. Tomorrow, yes tomorrow I will wade in hip deep. However, I will state this; neutralobservers statement QUOTING “ Using imprecise language”, let alone the placement of semicolons and moronic sentence structure is hilarious at the very least! I promise much more tomorrow.

Justcountry what was “sent to your email”?

As stated in my email, well you know what I wrote. Anyway was it not almost precise, there are a few posts by you still up.

EXPEDITE THE EXPULSION OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS!!!

IMPEACH THE SOCIALIST!!!!!
neutralobserver
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June 12, 2010
Poor, poor Hellfire/JustCountry.

I couldn't care less whether your comments are deleted or you are banned. With your vast knowledge of IP I'm sure you could hack your way right back in.

It would be sad to see you go; you're simply hilarious.

Islander98
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June 11, 2010
Condo, I agree.

Besides, Global Warming has been statistically proven, but the cause is still just theories. I believe human activity is the main contributor, but that has not been empirically proven.

JustCountry - interesting that you would feel the need to talk for HellFire. See your own Rule #1.

As far as email - not going to happen. Don't need a bunch of spam flooding my inbox.

You want to discuss views in person - name the place in Corpus and the time during the week. Otherwise - stick to being an internet tough guy.
neutralobserver
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June 11, 2010
We're often wrong, but human impact on climate change isn't an instance of our wrongness.

The importance of this story isn't whether or not I'm right about humanity's desire to destroy a livable environment, it's the fact that a young girl is a pawn in an obviously political game.

This story wouldn't be nearly as important if the 'award' had gone to research on aquifer depletion or sorghum hybrids.
Islander98
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June 11, 2010
JustCountry:

* Doing things like this to make our kids feel good helps create adults that are out of touch with reality and are ill-prepared to handle dissappointment.

* I'm guessing you're opinions about "evolution" weren't formed by any kind of actual study. A person doesn't need to be a tree-hugger to realize that we have a self interest in maintaining the diversity of life and ecosystems we've inherited from nature. Nothing wrong with using the world around us to sustain our existence, we just need to do it in a smart way.

* I don't know what kind of stuff people are passing on to their kids, but I would like to ensure my kids and their children can enjoy the splendors of nature.

* In regards to "mind your own.." If you're going to make up a rule - you might try following it yourself first.

* Don't remember it every being the "United States of Texas" - but hypothetically - if Texas did ever become it's own country again - I feel pretty confident that you'd continue to be governed by other, smarter people. You'd still be complaining - and nothing you would say would matter.

* I second neutralobservers comments - all talk from the safety of your keyboard - and of course no action.
neutralobserver
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June 11, 2010
First thing I need to tell you is that you've got your two identities confused. You're now responding to questions I posed to Condo from your JustCountry account.

Stick to one account and we'll all be able to follow your lunacy more accurately.
condo2109
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June 11, 2010
nEUTRAL-

i WAS HOPIN YOU WOULD TELL ME.

condo2109
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June 11, 2010
Your post lost all credibility when it put sane and liberal in the same sentence.

Your spineless Obama has done WONDERS for this county!!!!!!!! We are mere inches away from the intentions of what our founding fathers had planned.

God bless the KING!!!!!!!
neutralobserver
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June 11, 2010
Rule number 1: Don't fill your child's head with completely insane ideas about the non-existence of global warming.

Rule number 2: Don't create false awards for her work attempting to disprove a fact.

Rule number 3: Don't be surprised when she grows up to be a sane liberal just to spite your cruel attempt turn her into a political pawn.
condo2109
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June 11, 2010
I never once in that post told, asked or suggested how Mr. Castillo ought to raise his children. Nor would I like for another to tell me how to raise mine. I just pointed out that I feel raising them by going to the paper to give them a false award may not be in their best interest.

I've made errors in judgement as well!
condo2109
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June 11, 2010
I have nothing against making your child feel good. I try to do every day. I also believe in showing them that I'm proud of them, not by making things up, but looking them in the eye and telling them I'm proud. Part of kids growing up also means letting them know that it's okay not to win everything. It's far better to attempt with all of your effort and not to succeed than to have your dad make up awards and feel that you have.

Dr. Castillo seems to not understand the line between honesty and deceit. That's not a great trait or value to pass along to your kids.

teacher454
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June 11, 2010
I don't want to be rude, but how is this news? If anything, all it is doing to giving negative light on the poor girl. What happened is terrible, but adding insult to injury by highlighting it is not good- either.

If seems the father wants attention. Just don't do it at the girl's expense.
condo1209
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June 11, 2010
This is looking more and more shady! Hope the father didn't actually do this and that it doesn't affect the daughter.

Correct link:

http://www.reddit.com/r/science/comments/ccoct/the_fake_science_fair_award_what_sort_of_person/c0rnotv
condo2109
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June 11, 2010
Seems like some have done some investigating on Dr. Castillo and many things are not adding up.

[url]http://www.reddit.com/r/science/comments/ccoct/the_fake_science_fair_award_what_sort_of_person/[/url]