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Northeastern Athletics | April 19, 2016

Northeastern's Abakah, Donnelly primed for future success

  Kwesi Abakah and Caleb Donnelly have made it a point to excel on and off the basketball court.

Kwesi Abakah and Caleb Donnelly are blazing their own trails at Northeastern. As two standouts on the basketball team who, combined only missed one game this season, that should be enough… but it's not. In fact, Abakah and Donnelly were the only two players to major in engineering of the 10 basketball schools in the CAA conference.

Abakah, a 6'8" redshirt junior forward, is an electrical engineer with a 3.3 GPA who will walk at this spring's graduation ceremony before returning for his senior season next year.

Donnelly, a 6'1" senior guard, is a chemical engineer with a minor in mathematics and a 3.995 GPA, and a two-time Dean Ehlers Award winner. He too will walk this May with a Master's and Bachelors of Science degrees in chemical engineering.

As basketball players Abakah and Donnelly have practice, lifts, extra time in the gym, oh and games, which often times come mid-week. As engineers things don't get much easier, in fact they get harder, with classes, lab hours, research time, and homework to complete.

The travel associated with Division-I basketball should prevent them from doing much else, but instead they did even more.


Abakah spent the last couple of months as the lead author along with five of his classmates designing a prototype for a "Smart Walker." The prototype is made to help people recovering from strokes or other injuries that hindered walking and was completed as a part of his senior capstone for the 2016:RISE event.

The event has been held annually for the past five years and features over 900 student and faculty presenters.

Abakah was humbled to be selected for this event.

"Not everyone gets to make it to the Exposition" said Abakah, "only about three undergraduate groups made it on the engineering side."

The Smart Walker measures the weight applied on each side of the walker to allow people to have a better understanding of their own rehabilitation process.

If developed and marketed, the Smart Walker could replace traditional walkers and send feedback to the user and their physical therapist about how to best attack their rehabilitation. Abakah is hopeful that his more advanced walker will improve the efficiency of the recovery process.


Every year Northeastern recognizes nine students for the prestigious Compass Award, who have made outstanding impacts on campus in the areas of leadership, volunteerism, academic integrity, and commitment to Northeastern.

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This year that award was given to Donnelly.

In addition to his scholastic and athletic endeavors, he taught a group of sixth graders once a week at Orchard Gardens K-8 Pilot School in Boston, where he worked as a citizen teacher to help students build small-scale solar cars.

According to Donnelly one of the most important factors in handling being an engineer and basketball player is being efficient. "Being an engineer, and taking those classes definitely requires an extra amount of time commitment," said Donnelly. "The biggest thing is that you stick to your schedule and remain efficient whether you're doing homework or putting in extra work on the court."

It does make you wonder what makes it worth it for these two players to put in the amount of time they do. Why would they sacrifice so many hours that a 'normal' college student would get to enjoy? Is it worth it?

Abakah said it best, "Being an engineer isn't solely about learning about hardware or software, it's about being the best problem-solver out there so you have the capabilities to succeed in any field."

And clearly, that applies to the hardwood as these two 2015 CAA champs can attest.

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