Rocky second grader experiments with sugar beets

Erin Mullins

When Tux Mills saw sugar beets on the side of the road, he was determined to make sugar.
“He said, ‘Granny, pick up a sugar beet when you see it on the side of the road.’ And about the third time he asked me, I said, ‘Tux you’d have to ask me when I could do something about it,’” Lynn Hansen of Lovell, grandmother to Tux, said. “Because it was always after we got back to my house or your house or whatever.”
Eventually, Tux got his beets. Coming back from the movie theater where the pair went to buy popcorn, Tux asked for a sugar beet. Hansen ran across the highway to retrieve the beets.
The first step in their scientific process was peeling and chopping up the sugar beets. After that, they put the beet pieces into a food processor and blended them. Then they put the beet pieces into water. After doing this many times, they boiled the beets for two hours.
Tux, a second grader at Rocky Mountain Elementary School, said the hardest part of the process was peeling the beets, which took him hours, while Hansen said the hardest part of the process was boiling the beets as the water would easily over boil.
The pair discovered part of the process to make beets into sugar by watching YouTube videos. While Tux was peeling the beets, his grandfather found a video of a man who was creating sugar from sugar beets. However, dehydrating the beets like shown in the video did not work.
The first time they tried to dry out the beets to make sugar was an “epic fail,” Hansen said. They used wax paper and tried to dehydrate the beets, which didn’t work. The beets simply stuck to the wax paper. A neighbor pitched in to help make sugar.
Their neighbor Tricia Messamer freeze dried the beets. She suggested it after hearing about the project from Hansen. Messamer freeze dries everything from Skittles to Jello. The freeze drying created a white crystalline sugar.
“I just thought this was cool because this is all because a little 7-year-old kid was curious about it,” Hansen said.
Initially, Tux was not sure what the structure of sugar beets was like, but he was still determined to make sugar.
“I wanted to try and make sugar,” he said. “Also, I thought it was like a hard shell.” 
Both Tux and his grandmother were fans of the beets. He says the taste is hard to explain, but it tastes like sugar.
“[The neighbors] freeze dried it, and then they made balls of sugar. We grinded up the balls and turned it into tiny pieces of sugar. And then we tried it, and it was super good,” Tux said.
Tux wanted to bring his sugar to school, but you are not allowed to bring homemade food into school. The final sugar beet Tux processed turned out dark brown, whereas the others were white. It has not been freeze dried yet, so Hansen does not know how the sugar will turn out yet.
Tux has enjoyed the process and hopes to grow sugar beets next year so he can make more sugar.