Wenatchee High School junior Cole Wickel has been chosen to participate in the Washington Aerospace Scholars (WAS) Summer Residency.

This highly competitive program is ideal for budding networkers of a certain persuasion. It connects high school upperclassmen with "educational and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics," according to a press release.

For Wickel, this is the culmination of a journey that began in November. He enrolled in a five-month online course consisting of lessons jointly designed by NASA and the University of Washington.

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Having completed the requisite coursework, Wickel is invited to a week-long residency at Seattle's Museum of Flight. There he will collaborate with "professional engineers/scientists, university students, and certificated educators" on a "human mission to Mars." Designing a space mission is no mean feat; click here for specifics.

It's not clear if Wickel has his heart set on an aerospace career. But according to the press release, most participants in the WAS program report undertaking a "STEM career pathway."

Whatever the particulars of his "pathway," Wickel is an enviably accomplished young man. Not content with mastering his high school studies, he was named to the Wenatchee Valley College President's List in April. We can infer he took on a full-time classload at WVC because the President's List only recognizes students taking 12 or more credits.

Some critics have lamented that secondary schooling in this country is increasingly "STEM-ified," for want of a better term. Others insist there is too little emphasis placed on STEM instruction. Ariel Cohen argued the latter recently in a Forbes piece titled "STEM Education Reform Needed to Compete With China."

LOOK: 31 breathtaking images from NASA's public library

In 2017, NASA opened the digital doors to its image and video library website, allowing the public to access more than 140,000 images, videos, and audio files. The collection provides unprecedented views of space. Stacker reviewed the collection to select 31 of the most breathtaking images, including the first from the James Webb Space Telescope. Keep reading to see these stunning images, curated with further information about the captured scenes.

Gallery Credit: Deborah Brosseau

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