A tiny decile two school in Tangimoana has been awarded a game-changing grant.

Children of Tanigimoana School arrived back from their holidays on Monday to the extra special surprise.

The school of 17 pupils, located on the outskirts of Manawatu, won first place and a grant of $25,000.

The Genesis Energy Energising Young Minds competition aimed to help school students learn about science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) in New Zealand's classrooms.

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More than 600 schools applied and five finalists were selected.

Schools could win $25,000, $15,000 and $10,000 to spend on their school's science or technology equipment, such as 3D printers, virtual reality goggles and robotics kits.

Tangimoana School principal Timu Niwa said it was huge for their little community.

"So many unfortunate things have happened to the school and to the community – like the various floods we've had over the last 10 years," he said.

"The community was staggered to hear that we might make it into the top five and so when they find out about us getting the top prize, it will be such a huge morale boost for the school and village.

"Access to these funds will give me the opportunity to get into the whole area of energy sustainability – I can't wait for it all to start."

Niwa said teaching engineering and technology was critical for all tamariki.

"Having our school so isolated and a lot of our kids not having any experience outside of Tangimoana, being about to bring that technology into the school, especially robotics, would open up a whole new world to them," he said.

"As a school, we desire to have a solar panel system so the students could not only learn about energy and sustainability but also save money to spend on more technology.

"There is a whole range of tech gear that would be beneficial to our kids for STEM learning."

The school was voted into the top five thanks to the support of local people.

It then had to impress a panel of tech and education judges to make it to the top three and win a share of the prize pool.